The US Department of Energy, through its Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO), and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) are to work together to evaluate and demonstrate different approaches for operating hydropower plants to meet the electricity grid’s changing needs.

They have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will see WPTO and its national laboratory partners focus on quantifying the value hydropower and pumped storage facilities provide to the electricity grid and applying advanced modeling to predict the effects of climate change on TVA's hydropower systems. They will also work to understand how fleetwide data can inform plant-level decisions, such as when to conduct maintenance activities.

TVA will focus on techniques and technologies that allow its hydropower system to adapt to the changing needs of the Tennessee Valley and the broader electricity industry. This may involve demonstrations of more mature technologies anticipated for near-term, utility-scale deployment. TVA’s hydroelectric system comprises 29 power-generating dams throughout the Tennessee River system and a pumped storage plant near Chattanooga, Tennessee. TVA’s generation portfolio is 11% hydropower.

Over the next six months, WPTO and TVA will develop an action plan that outlines their joint efforts.

“Today’s hydropower fleet has a crucial role to play in achieving the United States’ clean energy goals, but strategies for operating those plants will have to evolve as more renewable energy resources come onto the grid,” said WPTO Director Jennifer Garson. “WPTO and TVA have been working together to advance hydropower technologies over the last several years, and this MOU is an important step in formalizing and building on those activities.”

“TVA is a pioneer in clean hydropower technology – completing our first energy-producing dam in Norris, Tennessee, in 1936, and investing today in our hydroelectric fleet to build the energy system of the future that will help continue to reduce carbon emissions,” said Dr. Joe Hoagland, vice president, TVA Innovation & Research. “We appreciate this partnership with the US Department of Energy as we look to advance hydropower technologies that will not only provide affordable, reliable, resilient, and sustainable energy, but also bring jobs and investment to the seven-state region we serve.”