What are the opportunities for development of small hydro and low-head hydropower technologies?

Berkeley, August 27, 2018 4:30 PM

The days of buildings hydropower dams seems to have already gone. Not only for the environmental impacts that they produce, but also because it is an old technology, developed in massively at the beginning of the 20 century.

These massive development has helped the world to develop additional sources of electricity. Only 17% of the world large dams produce hydropower. I detailed other percentages in yesterday’s post. In the United States, hydropower generation represents only the 7% of the total electricity generation.

After several findings of dam impacts in the river, such us sediment trapping, which among the impacts, incise the channel downstream, which subsequently will have a negative impact in the riparian vegetation, habitat, and built infrastructure, such as roads, and bridges.

Dams also has an impact fishes, not only in their migration, but also in their ecological habitat and population. Altering the natural water and sediment flows impact aquatic population, plus dams not only trap sediments but also fish eggs.

There are about 59,000 large dams in the world. Most of them were built between 1900 and 1970’s. With a rapid increase in population, over the 20 century, potential places for dam construction would be already important human settlement. I strongly discourage large human relocation for building dams.

What is next?

In the developed world, bringing up the United States case, implementing pumping storage hydropower facilities in the dams that are currently used only for water purpose will be the cheapest and most effective effective solution for using the the hydropower potential, without further large infrastructure constructions in fragile ecological systems, as river and streams are.

Second, the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) of 1978 had an excellent impact on energy conservation, improvement of energy efficiency of power generation facilities, research and development of new technologies for power generation, and was important for the deregularization of the energy market.

While solar technologies had a rapid increase, beyond the recent tax increase for importing Chinese manufactured solar panels, and wind energy had also rapidly increased their installations. What are the opportunities for producing small hydro and low-head hydropower from streams?

I will continue elaborating the small hydro and low-head hydropower technologies and their potential in next time. It is time to complete the post.