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DOE awarding $4.4M to advance hydropower manufacturing for “low-head” sites

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding a total of $4.4 million for two projects to support the use of advanced materials and manufacturing techniques in the development of new “low-head” hydropower technologies. Low-head sites, which operate with a change in elevation between 2 and 20 meters, include waterways at existing non-powered dams, canals, and conduits. According to Energy Department assessments, there is a technical resource potential of more than 50 gigawatts of potential capacity at these low-head sites.

New, low-cost, integrated hydropower turbine and generator sets made with modern materials and manufacturing technologies will help power providers harness the full generating potential of these existing low-head sites and produce cost-competitive, renewable electricity.

  • Eaton Corporation will develop a turbine and generator system that uses lightweight advanced materials and advanced manufacturing techniques such as laser-assisted welding, surface treatments, and processing. The turbine will be designed to deliver a constant source of energy despite changes in water flow by using a system that operates efficiently across a range of ebbs and flows. The Eaton Corporation will design, fabricate, and test its turbine at 1/10th scale.

  • Pennsylvania State University will develop and demonstrate a low-head hydropower turbine and generator system prototype that combines lightweight, corrosion-resistant metallic components that can be produced through an additive manufacturing process. A condition-based monitoring system will also facilitate improved operation and maintenance.

Together, these organizations will combine advanced materials and manufacturing techniques to maximize efficiency and improve the design, performance and durability of innovative hydropower manufacturing capabilities.



Vast numbers of low head sites have either seen dismantlement of old watermills, need reconfiguration for new exigencies in water v, wildlife conservation, need urgent repair or removal of old and unsafe dams, or are simply wasted due to designation as flood control sites rather than hydropower sites.

This is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs and more approachable as a project for investors and coops than PV.


There is a lot of low fruit here that would benefit from longer term focus.
A $M does't go far these days.


Lets hope they rapidly transition this to "greedy" enterprises to build and install a bunch of these, rather than just study how they could be made or overspend on a bunch based on corrupt political considerations.

Technology advances when both good engineering and good science develop a product that is desirable and profitable with no, or minimal, taxpayer money.

And this is where American jobs, prosperity and social benefits originated.


A low-head site means little or no water storage (storing a lot of water = varying the head to a fair degree).  This means generation cannot be varied much to track demand.  It will be a lot less erratic than wind and solar, but it's not going to replace much in the way of dispatchable generation.


To clarify low hanging fruit in this instance refers to the number of possible sites including tidal, the lack of comercialy available suitable 'turbines'for the range of possible apps.

That is not to criticise the various models that have seen small market penetration)- platypus high volume low head turbines , waterwheels other low head versions) that should become more applicable and cheaper if made more available.

There is much room for small scale and many examples of large generators I.E. the Thames river tidal floodgates and Netherlands dike systems as well as increasing use moving barriers that we expect to see more of as sea levels continue upwards.

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