Planning & Management

Oral

397759 - Rethinking the role of renewable energy: using new small hydropower developments to drive improvements in stream system health

Wednesday, June 6
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Location: Greenway GH

Small hydropower plants (SHPs), defined as plants with less than 10 MW of installed capacity, are valuable assets in our nation’s renewable energy portfolio. The well documented environmental impacts of conventional hydropower, however, coupled with high capital costs, stakeholder reluctance, and long regulatory timelines have combined to halt the construction of new projects. A fundamental rethinking of conventional development approaches is needed if we are to overcome these challenges and create low-impact, cost-competitive hydropower installations that can support global carbon reduction targets.

In this talk, the authors outline a novel approach to small hydropower planning that leverages river system classification systems to identify where strategic placement of new small modular hydro facilities could be used to improve stream system health. The approach hypothesizes that a portfolio of low-impact hydropower projects can be developed in degraded and highly regulated water systems to help restore ecological function, mainly through smoothing of hydrologic alteration. The authors will use a case study to communicate the major steps of the approach: (1) a conceptual framework for classifying river system functionality, (2) identification of functional similarities across different river networks, and (3) geospatial analysis to determine optimal siting of low-impact hydropower facilities. In addition to case study findings, the authors will conclude with recent design innovations in modular civil structures and small hydro turbines that can enable such scalable, cost-competitive modular facilities.

Adam Witt, PhD

Hydropower Systems Research Engineer
Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Dr. Adam Witt is a Hydropower Systems Research Engineer in the Energy Water Resource Systems Group at Oak Ridge National Lab. His research interests include energy and water resource systems assessments and technology development, including design, engineering, economic, and environmental analysis of small hydropower projects, techno-economic and energy modeling of hydropower and pumped storage plants, water quality modeling of hydropower systems, hydropower operations optimization modeling, and engineering consultation to accelerate the viability of emerging water power technologies. He received a BA in Physics from Carleton College and a PhD in Civil Engineering from the Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory at the University of Minnesota under a fellowship from the Hydro Research Foundation. Dr. Witt can be reached at wittam@ornl.gov and 865-241-7367.

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