Hydro pros reflect and predict16 January 2024
IWP&DC asked members of the hydro industry to share their experiences from the past 12 months, and give an insight into what the new year may hold for them
Dr. Norbert Riedel, Voith Hydro
From my perspective as CTO of one of the leading suppliers for hydropower equipment 2023 has been extremely exciting for our industry. Why is that? Well, I am very happy that the first six-nozzle horizontal Pelton machine successfully conducted its trial run in Austria at the beginning of the year.
Since the early 20th century, Voith Hydro has supplied thousands of Pelton turbines in a wide range of sizes and outputs all over the world. But this one is very special. For many years, we have been conducting intensive research on the concept of multi-nozzle, horizontal Pelton units and until now, Pelton turbines with more than three nozzles have always been designed with a vertical shaft. The main reason for this was that it allowed higher efficiency than a horizontal arrangement. We have now successfully eliminated this drawback, as demonstrated in the Gerlos 1 hydropower station, where for the first time, an efficiency level comparable to that of the vertical configuration has been achieved. You can imagine how rewarding it feels to see the development of multiple years finally up and running and I can only congratulate my R&D team and our customer Verbund AG on this great milestone.
The technology is of particular interest for upgrades of existing hydropower plants where single- or double-nozzle horizontal units are already installed. This is because the turbine can be replaced without major structural works, which significantly reduces civil costs and installation times. At the same time, there is enormous potential for increasing efficiency and the associated potential reduction in the number of turbines can likewise lower future maintenance costs. The new development is also a winning solution for new systems, as it requires less excavation and is more compact with a smaller footprint than conventional solutions. This is also associated with a shorter installation time, which substantially reduces the overall investment costs.
Entura in 2023
It’s been another productive year for Entura in hydropower throughout the Indo-Pacific. With Hydro Tasmania, our consultants are helping deliver Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation vision and we’re also excited to see our clients’ hydropower projects coming to fruition, such as a landmark pumped hydro project in Queensland, a new multi-purpose dam in Samoa, and a major hydropower project in the Solomon Islands, amongst many others.
A major enabler of a sustainable hydropower future is investing in skills. Our registered training organisation, the Entura Clean Energy and Water Institute (ECEWI), has delivered targeted courses in 2023 that build capacity in the sector, with a particular focus on dam safety. Highlights included delivering tailored programmes for the Malaysian National Committee on Large Dams and the South Asia Regional Infrastructure Connectivity initiative.
One of ECEWI’s expert trainers, David Gerke – a favourite of trainees and colleagues alike – was honoured as 2023’s Professional Engineer of the Year in the Tasmanian section of Engineers Australia’s Engineering Excellence Awards.
The year has also been rich in international advocacy and collaboration. Entura’s Managing Director, Tammy Chu, shared Entura’s renewable energy insights as part of an Australian Senior Business Delegation to India and at a subsequent roundtable event with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As Vice-President of the IHA, Tammy participated in the Latin American and Caribbean Roundtable on Sustainable Hydropower in Brazil and the World Hydropower Congress in Bali. Entura also joined an Australian Energy Mission to Thailand and Vietnam.
“On behalf of Entura and in my role on the IHA, I’m always eager to advance fundamental and urgent international discussion about hydropower’s important role in fast-tracking the clean energy transition and powering sustainable growth around the world,” said Chu. “Collaboration will be key to achieving global goals.”
Events in Ukraine and Libya have perhaps been the most notable events in the dam industry during 2023 and illustrate, once again, the scale of destruction that is possible when things go wrong, says Tim Hirst, DAMSAT Business Manager at HR Wallingford in the UK.
Whether dam failures are caused by humans or the weather, the end results can be just as devastating. Following the breach of the Kakhovka Dam in the Ukraine, HR Wallingford and the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology were commissioned by the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office to produce an impact report. Over a period of less than three weeks, the team put together a series of assessments, including the impacts to the ecology, economics, and agronomy in the area downstream of the breach.
The tragedy at Derna certainly made us stop and think about the need for cost-effective monitoring, particularly in hard-to-reach areas. Disasters such as this were the reason we developed our space-based system DAMSAT.
DAMSAT is an ‘eye in the sky’ that monitors dams for advanced signs of movement, and leakage. It uses a wide range of satellite-derived data which is integrated with terrestrial observations and recordings. The system employs machine learning algorithms, programmed by HR Wallingford’s experts in dam engineering and artificial intelligence, to produce actionable information that owners, operators and regulators can use to help keep their assets in prime condition.
DAMSAT was developed for tailings and water dams and has been deployed successfully in Europe and South America. HR Wallingford, working with the UK Space Agency and other partners, is now delivering an ambitious international expansion programme in order to help vulnerable communities worldwide.
From a personal perspective, Hirst says, he is really excited by the prospect that DAMSAT offers, particularly in the field of consequence planning. The system incorporates the huge base of knowledge within HR Wallingford in terms of breach, flood and life safety modelling. These greatly assist the development of contingency plans and could lead to significant higher levels of preparedness in the event of future disasters, such as those experienced during 2023.
DAMSAT is an eye-in-the-sky for dam operators
Julian David Hunt, Research Scientist at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
Pumped hydro storage has long been a stalwart in the energy storage landscape, providing essential support for daily power demands. Traditionally used for hourly or daily energy storage, this technology is at a crossroads. With the rapid reduction in the cost of batteries, it is evident that pumped hydro storage must evolve to remain relevant. In the not-so-distant future, we can expect pumped storage to serve a much broader purpose, offering energy storage solutions in daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal cycles, all while providing crucial water management services.
This transformation means that pumped storage facilities will boast impressive water storage capacities combined with relatively low installed capacities. These facilities are set to become adaptable multi-purpose reservoirs, facilitating long-term energy storage and more. One of the significant advantages they bring to the table is their role in water management, including minimizing water evaporation, leaving minimal environmental impact, preserving river streams, and aiding in drought alleviation and flood control. These services are increasingly crucial as countries adapt to the challenges posed by climate change. Another underutilized aspect is its potential to store cold energy. During the winter, these reservoirs can accumulate cold in their lower layers, which can then be harnessed to meet cooling demands during the summer months. For example, just a one-degree Celsius reduction in temperature in a full Lake Mead reservoir can fulfill a remarkable 1% of the global cooling demand in 2021, highlighting the vast potential of these reservoirs to contribute to our cooling needs while reducing the strain on conventional cooling systems.
In conclusion, the future of pumped hydro storage is far from one-dimensional. These facilities are set to transform into versatile and sustainable assets that cater to diverse energy storage needs.
Christine Lins, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Global Women’s Network for the Energy Transition
We all know that the Paris Agreement means nothing less than a total decarbonisation of the energy sector at least by 2050 and that renewables play a major role in that process. And with national governments increasingly recognising the economic and social benefits of renewables, considering that the workforce in the renewable energy sector is predicted to rise from 13.7 million jobs today to about 42 million jobs in 2050, the attraction of female talent will be crucial to ensure a thriving sector.
The Global Women’s Network for the Energy Transition (GWNET), a non-profit membership association registered in Austria in 2017, works on empowering women in energy through advocacy, networking and mentoring. GWNET currently has over 4000 members (both individual and corporate) from 150 countries and throughout the year has continued to empower women in energy worldwide, while working towards attracting new talent to the sector.
GWNET has contributed to two new studies: Europe’s Energy Transition: Women’s Power in Solving the Labour Bottleneck, and Power with Full Force – Getting to Gender Equality in the Hydropower Sector. There was a fantastic team working across GWNET on these projects and they spoke to many inspiring and passionate women who will hopefully find the studies useful.
Together with various international partners, GWNET has also launched a series of new mentoring programmes, involving over 300 women as mentees from all around the globe, including: Women in Energy Storage with ESMAP, Women in Power Sector Transformation with NREL, Energising women to advance the energy transition with the German government and GIZ Women in Renewable Energy Africa with IFC.
Malcolm Woolf, President and CEO of the National Hydropower Association
2023 has been a banner year for the National Hydropower Association (NHA) in the US.
As the voice of the US hydropower industry, the organisation has expanded its work to sustain and grow water power decades into the future and am particularly excited to share three developments from the past year:
- 1. Our advocacy in Washington is yielding results: NHA worked hard to make sure lawmakers valued water power when crafting the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law; we even conceived the law’s infrastructure grant programme that ultimately secured over US$900 million for hydropower, pumped storage and marine energy projects around the country. In 2023, federal dollars from the legislation stated to flow, helping to grow our industry and maintain existing fleets, with 66 hydroelectric facilities receiving the first US$38 million. Even amidst Washington’s dysfunction, we’re uniting leaders from both sides of the aisle in support of our industry.
- We’re convening water power: This year’s Clean Currents – NHA’s annual water power conference and trade show – was a major success. We gathered more than 1600 participants and 200+ exhibitors from across America and around the world at this year’s event in Cincinnati, Ohio. Since we launched the conference in 2019, Clean Currents has continued to grow, becoming the go-to water power event by and for the industry as it offers a unique selection of presentations and learning sessions that appeal to a wide array of water power professionals.
- We’re creating new opportunities for growth: NHA is excited to soon launch a new certification programme, which will make it easier for water power professionals to stay at the top of their game in a rapidly changing industry. We understand that fulfilling hydro’s potential to power America and tackle the climate crisis will require a highly skilled workforce, and we’re excited to help provide expert training for people of all backgrounds.
In 2023, I felt the tide turn for our industry. Water power, which has been viewed by many as an afterthought in the energy sector, is beginning to get the attention and investment it deserves. NHA can’t wait to build on that momentum in 2024.
Terry Stebbings, Director of Proterra Energy
This year we have shown that innovation in how we integrate hydro schemes as part of our energy systems is key to successful project development.
In Scotland we have a proud heritage of hydro installations, yet hydro makes up a reducing percentage of our energy mix these days because of the growth in onshore and offshore wind and mains gas in urban areas. But the hydropower potential that still exists is an asset we have on our doorsteps.
There was significant growth in small hydro from 2010–2018, powered by the Feed in Tariff subsidy from government. This provided security against the higher capital cost of hydro installations but has now been removed and there has been a cliff edge style drop in the number of installations.
Our last hydro install was an off-grid system in 2019, made viable because of the cost of diesel. For the last three to four years our hydro involvement has principally been O&M.
This year we have installed two new micro hydro schemes which has been a welcome return to these projects, enabled by innovative thinking in how these schemes are connected to the grid, how their power is utilised, and the increased cost of electricity.
We’ve still faced a number of consenting challenges in delivering these schemes. These weren’t technical challenges but organisational issues within the consenting bodies of planning, environment and the grid. These are mostly legislative changes that have little to do with the technical and environmental issues and further hamper development.
Despite these challenges, we believe in Scotland as a Hydro Nation. The two 2023 schemes have kept that belief alive and we have two other schemes planned for 2024: the refurbishment of 35-year-old off-grid scheme, integrating with solar to create a hybrid power system which will enable the redevelopment of a currently unused remote property; and a version of one of the schemes we built this year, a hydro/solar hybrid with an innovative grid connection that will provide locally produced power to a number of remote properties.
Hydro is an established technology but with innovative thinking around use of power, it can continue to be relevant in Scotland.
In 2023, CEATI’s Dam Safety Interest Group reached 83 member organisations, including dam owners and power producers from nine different countries. Some of the year’s highlights include hosting a failure modes workshop about risk assessment in dam safety management, with insightful presentations from members in Canada, the US and Sweden (OPG and BC Hydro, USBR, and Energiforsk). As more utilities are successfully incorporating risk into their failure mode identification and analysis process, CEATI says working sessions like this are increasingly beneficial to aid in the development of these processes.
In August, a Dam Anchoring Principles research report was published which includes guidelines and recommendations from US, Australian, and European organisations and describes current approaches to corrosion protection, structural design, construction, and long-term monitoring of dam anchors.
Looking ahead to 2024, Lizzie Smith, VP Generation at CEATI says they’re excited for their annual hydropower conference on 19-20 March in Palm Springs. Over 600 attendees are expected, including members of CEATI’s three hydropower interest groups (Dam Safety, Hydropower Plant Equipment, and Hydropower Operations & Planning) representing over 100 utilities and dam owners, and industry experts.
Over the past year, Kleinschmidt played a pivotal role in the hydropower industry’s knowledge exchange by collaborating with the National Hydropower Association and Ontario Water Association to release the second Ear to the River Hydropower Industry Report. Providing insights beyond publicly available information, such as FERC filings, the survey’s primary objective is to fully capture the industry’s future trajectory.
In 2023 Kleinschmidt was honored by the Zweig Group, a well-known AEC industry consultant, with the Best Firms to Work for Award across North America, while it was also the inaugural sponsor of the Hydropower Foundation’s Waterpower Club/Waterpower Community Partnership. This initiative unites the sector with tomorrow’s energy innovators through student-led waterpower clubs at universities and a broader waterpower community to address workforce development needs in the hydropower sector.
Among the projects Kleinschmidt secured this year was:
- A study for Holyoke Gas and Electric to monitor the Shortnose Sturgeon at Holyoke Dam.
- Engineering and permitting services for Seattle Public Utilities at South Fork Tolt Dam.
- The second-year engineering services for the Hood Canal Bridge Fish Passage Improvement Project with Long Live the Kings.
The firm also collaborated on a transformative project at the Adam T. Bower Memorial Dam, achieving a design that enhances fishway performance while reducing costs.
On a personnel note, Alison Jakupca’s appointment as the new Chair of Kleinschmidt’s Board of Directors marks a historic milestone as she becomes the first woman to hold this position in the company’s history. Additionally, Eric Turgeon’s recognition as a FERC-approved independent consultant and the professional advancement of numerous employees to professional engineer designation underscore a commitment to professional development for employees.
One of the most notable achievements of 2023 was the public launch of the Reservoir Assessment Tool (RAT) version 3.0 as an open source, user-friendly dam modelling platform for the global dam community, says Professor Faisal Hossain from the University of Washington’s Civil and Environmental Engineering department.
Developed by Sanchit Minocha, a PhD student at the University of Washington, the platform enables use of the full power of satellite remote sensing and IT advancements to track historical and current reservoir operations and their impacts (see www.satellitedams.net).
This version is optimised for accelerating open collaboration among users for continuous improvement and customisation of RAT to enable reservoir management breakthroughs. Using hydrologic models, satellite remote sensing data and cloud computing, RAT models the full state of reservoirs in terms of inflow, outflow, surface area, storage change and evaporative losses.
Hossain says previous versions of RAT were not as easy to set up as version 3.0 is now, with an average 50-100 downloads of the tool every month. By lowering the barrier of entry to set up a reservoir monitoring tool for the broader community, RAT has been set up in seven large river basins of Columbia, in Texas, Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Indus and Mekong rivers for the water agencies that manage the dams, many of them hydropower. These agencies incdue the Mekong River Commission, Kerala Centre for Water Resources Development and Management, Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources, Ministry of Water Resources- Iraq, Columbia River Inter-tribal Fish Commission and Bangladesh Water Development Board.
The global impact enabled by RAT3.0 garnered recognition for Sanchit Minocha as its developer from the American Water Resources Association (AWRA) as a People’s Choice Winner at 2022 Annual meeting.
The Reservoir Assessment Tool platform was developed by Sanchit Minocha, a PhD student at the University
“At Herrenknecht,” says Dr Marc Peters, “we notice that hydropower projects are becoming more ambitious. It is not only about boring steep shafts with large diameters but with tunnelling technology, shafts and galleries for hydroelectric power plants can be created with absolute precision, drilling along the specified alignment with the utmost accuracy – in various diameters and inclinations.”
For example for a small hydropower plant in Italy, a HDD Trailer Rig was used. Drilling almost a kilometre, the machine installed an 8-inch stainless steel pipeline, overcoming an elevation difference of 450m. In comparison to traditional drill and blast, TBMs offer increasing cost and time benefits, allowing more reliable project planning and increased safety.
Peters also give the examples of the renovation of the Ritom hydropower project in Switzerland where a Gripper TBM (Ø 3230 mm, weight 290 tonnes, length 95m) excavated a 1397m long pressure tunnel through gneiss formations. The TBM design was developed in cooperation between Marti Tunnel AG and Herrenknecht AG. Along the alignment, inclination changed from 23° to 42° and hence parts of the machine had to be repositioned to work in both working angles. The main challenge was to prevent any back slipping and the solution was using a Gripper TBM with two additional gripper units.
The project photo shows the Gripper TBM, built by Herrenknecht for Marti Holding AG, in the launching cavern at the tunnelling site for the inclined shaft at the Ritom hydropower plant renovation in Switzerland. Photo copyright Marti AG.
With more than a century of clean energy generation under its belt, Hydro Tasmania is now focused on the future and making significant progress on hydropower projects that will help underpin Australia’s energy transition. And this year, working closely with its consulting arm Entura, it’s made major advances towards expanding the hydropower system’s capacity and add new pumped hydro. The flagship project proposals are redeveloping the Tarraleah hydropower scheme and adding a new 750MW pumped hydro scheme.
Upgrade works on the Tarraleah scheme are well advanced and Hydro Tasmania identified its preferred redevelopment option that will generate around 30% more energy from the same amount of water and deliver an additional 100MW of peak capacity. It will also make the scheme more flexible, able to start generating almost immediately.
Hydro Tasmania is advancing activities to assess the commercial viability of redevelopment, obtain environmental approvals, prepare construction contracts, finalise the business case and be ready for a final investment decision.
With Australia setting an ambitious target of 82% renewable energy in the national market by 2030, major hydropower projects like these are key to achieving this goal and a clean, reliable and affordable future market.
“Tasmania is on the cusp of an exciting future. We have an incredible renewable energy legacy that positions us to lead the way. I am passionate about realising these opportunities for our state and for Australia,” says Chief Executive Officer Ian Brooksbank.
Tina River milestones
Tina River Hydropower Development Project (TRHDP), the largest renewable energy project in the Solomon Islands, reached several noteworthy milestones this year. The lenders have given their clearance for the main works, approving the complete set of the Construction Environmental and Social Management Plans, while the overall detailed design for the hydropower plant has received the green light.
In terms of infrastructure, steady progress has been made in road construction. Out of the total 2.7km of road needed to access the main dam, 800m have been completed. Similarly, for accessing the power plant, 900m out of the total 1.5km of road construction have been finished. The excavated earth from the road construction has been appropriately transported to a nearby disposal area, ensuring responsible waste management practices.
Pilot tracks leading to the dam site and the powerhouse site, known as Lots 2-2 and 3-1, respectively, are under construction. In addition, the concrete batcher plant and the crusher plant are now complete.
Environmental sustainability has been a key priority for the Tina River Hydropower Development Project. A total of 32 environmental and social management plans have been implemented, covering various areas such as biodiversity management, waste management, hazardous materials management, spill prevention, air quality control, erosion and sediment control, and water quality monitoring. These comprehensive plans ensure that the project adheres to strict environmental standards and promptly implements corrective and preventative measures to protect the local ecosystem.
The project has been dedicated to creating job opportunities, providing training, and fostering economic development for the people living in Central Guadalcanal, home to the Tina catchment area. The project protocols prioritise local communities for job positions, ensuring that they directly benefit from the project’s progress. Training programmes have been implemented to enhance the skills and understanding of unskilled, semi-skilled, and skilled staff members. Additionally, the project supports the local community by purchasing produce, such as fruits and vegetables, from them for the canteen facility at the campsite, further boosting the local economy.
The year 2024 holds exciting prospects for the project with construction of access roads continuing and expected to be completed by the first quarter of the year. The second quarter will see the commencement of diversion culverts and subsequent dam works, marking significant milestones in the project’s timeline. Furthermore, the procurement of hydropower plant equipment and the launching of the TBM access point will contribute to the project’s progress.
Reflecting on 2023, spokesperson Sarina Laurence says the project stands as a testament to the power of collaboration and determination between the Solomon Island government, who is implementing the scheme, and its partners and lenders who are providing finance and support through the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, the Asian Development Bank, the Government of Australia, the Green Climate Fund, Korea EX-IM Economic Development Cooperation Fund, and the World Bank.
The Tina River Hydropower Development Project is the largest renewable energy project in the Solomon Islands, and reached several noteworthy milestones in 2023
“As we approach the end of 2023, I’ve been reflecting on my professional career that has lasted for at least 55 years,” says Stephen O Simmons from Kiawah Consulting Group in the US.
He attributes most of that success to his first eleven years at Harza Engineering Company in what he considered to be an apprenticeship where was taught by some of the best engineers in the heavy civil consulting industry.
“At that time,” Simmons says, “I could not have envisioned that I would work on and provide expert witness testimony in the 1970s on what is still today the world’s largest energy storage project in Bath County Virginia holding 24,000MWh of energy, where in today’s world energy storage seeks alternatives to what is tried and proven pumped storage energy storage at significant scale, using well proven technology.”
Simmons adds that he continues to bring what wisdom and knowledge he’s been able to accumulate to the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan, where he is part of the leadership team “in the twilight” of his career.
“It is exciting to help new graduates who want to learn from someone’s previous experiences, showing them how they can advance their own careers by opening their minds to opportunities that they might not have thought about,” he adds.
During his long career, Simmons has worked on hydroelectric projects in Venezuela, pumped storage in the Philippines, water supply in Jamaica and many domestic water projects in the US, including Alaska, Colorado, Arkansas, Minnesota and many other locations. Topping it off, he also worked in his own consulting practice, offering consulting advice to the executive and operating management at a 600-person environmental and engineering company for more than a decade.
SPiVolt, a system engineered by TerraDat to observe subsurface waterflow, became commercially available 12 months ago. It provides clients with a powerful tool to assess earthen dams, coal tips, landslides, and the emergence of contamination pathways. The technology was developed over a seven-year period and so the last 12 months marks a significant milestone in the transition from academic research to practical application.
Since its commercial launch, SPiVolt has been deployed in various locations where it assists engineers in understanding how dams react to factors such as reservoir levels, seasonal fluctuations, and heavy rainfall. The data collected from the first commercial installations is substantial, even at this early stage approximately eight thousand data points are generated daily and nearly three million amassed annually.
TerraDat claims this shows how SPiVolt sits at the intersection of geophysics and data science. Such large data bases need to be handled efficiently and so coding and data visualisation skills need to be continually enhanced. Another critical aspect of SPiVolt operation over the next few years will be the need to refine how to effectively communicate and visualise this time domain data, translating it into understandable reports for non- specialists.
The team at TerraDat says it is dedicated to unlocking the full potential of SPiVolt, aiming to make it a leading approach for the monitoring of leaks and seepages in the years ahead.
Example of TerraDat’s SPiVolt data portal for a Victorian-era earthen dam
Low Impact Hydropower Institute
The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) is a nonprofit organisation which recognises hydropower that prioritises environmental, recreational, historical, and cultural resource protection. Since its beginning in 1999, the Low Impact Hydropower Certification programme has only operated in the US. However, with increasing worldwide interest in their work, entities from around the globe are periodically in contact seeking to use or adapt the programme for their own countries. In response, LIHI is exploring if and how it could expand internationally while adhering to the organisation’s guiding principles and certification programme’s rigorous, science-based approach to evaluating the environmental and social impacts of hydropower.
In 2023, LIHI took a major step toward international collaboration by signing an MOU with the Hydropower Sustainability Alliance to collaboratively explore, through a pilot programme, co-evaluation of hydropower facilities based on each programme’s sustainability standards and to assess the feasibility of dual certification in the US and internationally.
On a parallel front, LIHI staff are assisting the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Technology Collaboration Programme for Hydropower. Following on from the IEA’s 2022 “Hydropower and Fish Roadmap for Best Practice Management,” the institute is coordinating development of a technical factsheet entitled “Risk assessment for hydropower operation and fish: the importance of real-time information for mitigation measures” that highlights advanced approaches and challenges related to reducing conflicts between fish and hydropower.
Shannon Ames, LIHI Executive Director, has been busy this year sharing insights about sustainable hydropower in the US in both national and international forums. She presented at Nature Hub, a side event of the United Nations 2023 Water Conference in New York City. She also participated on a panel entitled “Measuring up: the case of standards in transparent sustainability claims” at the International Hydropower Association’s World Hydropower Congress in Bali, Indonesia. The panel discussed the pros and cons as well as the challenges faced by certification programmes globally.
“By sharing LIHI’s program successes with international audiences, we hope to encourage greater global adoption of hydropower that balances people and the environment with energy needs. LIHI’s long history with certifying hydropower makes us a unique and powerful source of expertise,” says Ames.
Looking to the future, challenges associated with potential expansion of the LIHI programme internationally may include data availability, incorporating differing regulatory regimes, and working within different market dynamics. However, Ames says they are looking forward to ongoing collaboration with international interests they continue to chart a course to enhance LIHI’s global recognition.
A career highlight
The highlight of 2023, and in fact of my career, says João Costa, was contributing to the launch of a new organisation that sets the sustainability benchmark for the sector.
A multistakeholder non-profit governed by a combination of public and private sectors, the Hydropower Sustainability Alliance (HSA), of which Costa is Executive Director, enhances transparency in the sector through its rigorous sustainability assessment and certification system and a robust capacity building programme.
The alliance’s vision is to make sustainable hydropower the norm. It’s not about more hydropower for the sake of it. It’s about more sustainable hydropower to help drive a clean energy future and help meet net zero targets.
“Our standard helps the hydropower sector develop projects that enable healthy ecosystems, prosperous communities, resilient infrastructure and good governance. This reality already exists. We just need to make it the norm,” Costa says. “With this in mind, we are committed to scaling up the adoption of sustainability principles in hydropower by embedding the standard in financial and corporate mechanisms, civil society expectations, and government regulations. Notably, as of October 2023, six hydropower projects received certification, and a growing pipeline awaits assessment.”
Ongoing engagement with key influential initiatives and groups like WWF, RE100 and financial institutions such as the World Bank, Swiss Re, and the Climate Bonds Initiative, further emphasise the significance of HSA’s efforts. This collaboration strengthens the foundation for sustainable hydropower practices, contributing to its broader acceptance.
Beyond certification, the alliance’s global impact extends through capacity-building programmes in diverse countries, including Colombia, Mozambique, Nepal, Indonesia, Albania, Tajikistan, and Malaysia. These programs, possible only with the support of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, and the Swiss State Secretariat of Economic Affairs, actively promote ESG good practices, thereby contributing significantly to the responsible development of the hydropower industry.
Finally, through the Hydropower Sustainability Training Academy, nearly 100 professionals worldwide received training on sustainability in hydropower in 2023 alone. This initiative continues equipping individuals with essential tools and skills to enhance the performance of hydropower projects and ensures that the knowledge and practices of sustainability are disseminated widely within
Looking forward, Costa says the focus remains on bringing positive change to the industry and enhancing accountable sustainability worldwide, pushing for transparency and continuous improvement.
The British Hydropower Association
This has been an exciting year for me, says Kate Gilmartin from the British Hydropower Association. As the newly appointed CEO just over a year ago, coinciding with energy being at the top of the political agenda as one of the main factors fuelling the cost of living crisis, she says it’s been a very busy year.
As a mature, proven, reliable technology hydropower is often overlooked in the scrum to find a silver bullet solution in an emerging technology. However, she says, the industry and the technology are faithfully powering away, decade after decade as the work horse of renewable energy generation.
The BHA have been given numerous opportunities this year to present at events across the UK. However, the pinnacle was the invitation to present as part of the opening plenary at the Hydro 2023 conference in Edinburgh. The BHA hosted a UK pavilion and there was a positive and enthusiastic atmosphere across the event with a sense that hydropower is seeing a renaissance across the world. There is a clear need and determination to deliver considerable amounts of pumped storage hydropower to help counter the increasing amounts of intermittent solar and wind. As the country rapidly decarbonises the grid, the need for speeding up the delivery of a digitalised smart grid intensifies, and with it brings immeasurable opportunities for generators and consumers alike. Conferences across the UK have been buzzing with ideas and knowledge-sharing with innovation being central to our vision of a net zero grid fit for the future.
Benefits of digital modelling
Advanced computer modelling – including bespoke systems – enabled Mott Macdonald to evaluate options for technical challenges at Albania’s Skavica Hydropower Project, says Ajay Chaudhary, Project Principal and the company’s Account Lead for Hydropower.
The Skavica project is expected to improve Albania’s national power security by not only increasing generating capacity through the construction of a new dam and powerhouse, but by boosting the output of existing hydropower plants that form the Drin River cascade, through better regulation of the water storage available in the reservoirs downstream.
With such a rich vein of information available to the project team for evaluating options, it is perhaps unsurprising that the client Bechtel required Mott MacDonald to be fully Building Information Modelling (BIM) compliant during the project development phase.
BIM is a process that can help improve the delivery of hydropower projects by:
- Enhancing collaboration and coordination among stakeholders and disciplines involved.
- Reducing project risks and costs by identifying and resolving potential conflicts and errors in the design stage before costly and time-consuming issues arise during construction. It also allows for simulation and optimisation of various aspects of the project, such as scheduling, budgeting, safety, and environmental impact.
- Improving project quality and performance by ensuring consistency and accuracy of information and documents derived from the digital model and facilitates the integration and interoperability of various systems and components, such as hydromechanical and electromechanical equipment.
- Supporting operation and maintenance by providing comprehensive and up-to-date records of the project’s history, condition, and performance. It can also enable the use of advanced technologies, such as augmented reality and artificial intelligence, to monitor and manage the project throughout its lifecycle.
BIM is a powerful digital tool that can help deliver hydropower projects more efficiently, effectively, and sustainably. It can also help address challenges and opportunities, such as increasing renewable energy share, enhancing grid stability, and adapting to climate change.
A highlight for me for 2023, says Gemma Regniez, Head of Communications and Advocacy at the International Hydropower Association, has to be the introduction of Frankie.
Frankie is the new mascot to the hydropower community, a robotic friend formed out of various elements that make up a hydro facility, including the Francis Turbine and a hydrostatic head inspired by the Kaplan Turbine. The aim of Frankie’s introduction was to provide an engaging, supportive character who can translate complicated information about hydropower into interesting facts.
Sustainable hydropower’s new mascot was first introduced as part of IHA’s Global Hydropower Day activity on 11 October with the aim of providing an engaging and friendly vehicle for the industry to share their stories with the rest of the world. The industry got fully behind the idea with Frankie popping up all over the world including at the NHA’s Clean Currents event in the US, Mainstream’s events in Nigeria and advertising from the Federation of Indian Small Hydropower.
But Frankie really came into his own at the World Hydropower Congress in Bali where he was there to greet the 1000 attendees from 50 different countries. Everyone wanted a picture with him, including His Excellency President Joko Widodo the 7th President of the Republic of Indonesia. (see attached image, Frankie meets President Joko Widodo).
Creating Frankie was a bit of a risk for IHA, we wanted to create something that could be easily used by the hydropower community to engage a wide range of people in hydropower’s offer to net zero. We wanted to avoid something that was considered too childlike but still maintain an element of fun and positivity in the mix. So far Frankie seems to have ticked those boxes and with the need for investment in clean energy never greater, I’m looking forward to seeing what he gets up to in 2024.
Hydropower’s new mascot Frankie was introduced on Global Hydropower Day