Tech Notes

Study shows global hydro capacity has great room for growth

A study unveiled by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy shows global hydroelectric production could double by 2050.

The report, titled, “Technology Roadmap: Hydropower,” says emerging economies have significant potential to generate electricity from large hydropower plants, potentially reducing fossil fuel CO2 emissions by up to 3 billion tonnes per year.

As the study’s authors note, however, a number of policies, conditions and environmental issues must be addressed if hydropower capacity is to grow in the manner they describe. “Hydroelectricity is a very cost-effective technology,” says IEA Deputy Executive Director Richard H. Jones. “However, new developments face tough financial challenges. Governments must create a favorable climate for industry investment when designing electricity markets.”

The report urges policy makers to:

– Establish or update the inventory of hydropower potential, at river basin level where appropriate, including options to upgrade existing plants or add hydropower units to dams originally developed for other purposes;

– Set hydropower development plans with specific targets, and develop a policy framework and market design for hydro projects;

– Ensure that hydro project developers and operators document their approaches to sustainability;

– Include the financing of hydropower on policy agendas; and

– Develop new public-risk-mitigating financial instruments, especially for developing countries.

– The report is available at

Feasibility of pumped-storage technologies to be demonstrated

Technology Roadmap  

As part of work being done to upgrade the 485 MW Le Cheylas pumped-storage plant in France, the eStorage consortium hopes to prove pumped-storage projects can be a cost-effective part of Europe’s renewable energy strategy.

Work to be performed to upgrade this plant involves installing variable-speed technologies that can provide up to 10 GW of additional regulation capability at existing plants. At Le Cheylas, which uses fixed-speed technologies, this translates to additional generation capacity of 70 MW. Variable-speed units are built to operate at a variety of speeds, meaning they provide power in a wider head range, increasing plant availability, and operate more smoothly at partial load.

The eStorage consortium – which includes Alstom, Electricite de France, Elia, Imperial College, DNV Kema and Algoe – hopes this upgrade will prove variable-speed pumped storage can help balance other renewable sources, allowing for “integration of several hundred MW of intermittent renewable generation.”

The consortium says “virtually all” existing pumped-storage plants in Europe use fixed-speed units.

ICOLD Forum: Bulletin on passing extreme floods

Bulletin on safe passage of extreme floods  

The International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) announces availability of its Bulletin 142, Safe Passage of Extreme Floods.

This technical bulletin covers the importance of adequate management of floods, which recently have been the main natural hazard responsible for human and economic losses and one of the main reasons for dam failure. The bulletin was prepared by ICOLD’s Committee on Hydraulics for Dams, which consists of 25 members from 20 countries.

The 192-page bulletin covers:

– Confidence level assessment of design flood estimates;

– Strategy for planning spillway arrangements with emphasis on floods exceeding design flood;

– Project facilities means to deal with floods in excess of design flood;

– Operational procedures;

– Flood warning systems;

– Case studies: Some experiences on safe passage of extreme floods in China;

– Case study: Experiences on passage of extreme flood in Canada; and

– Case study: Experience on passage of extreme flood in Brazil.

According to the bulletin, losses due to floods and inundations rank in first place in the worldwide statistics that include natural hazards and catastrophes such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, storms and fire. Over time, the incidence of severe problems in dams has decreased and represents less than 0.5% per year for dams built after the mid-20th century. But in spite of the advances achieved in reducing dam failures over time, concerns related to the safety of dams in general and their hydrological/hydraulic safety in particular still rank very high on the agenda of engineering topics deserving further attention and development.

To order this bulletin for €48 (US$63) as a web-based version, €54 ($71) as a CD, or €60 ($78) in print, visit: and click on Publications, then Bulletins.

– ICOLD is a non-governmental organization providing a forum for knowledge exchange in dam engineering. To learn more about ICOLD, contact Michel De Vivo, Secretary-General, ICOLD, 61 avenue Kleber, Paris 75116 France; (+33) 1-47041780; E-mail:

Report indicates strong hydro development potential in Peru

A study by industry and market analysis firm Frost & Sullivan says Peru has the third highest hydropower generating potential in South America, giving the country an opportunity to be a regional hub of electrical production.

Using data from the 2011 Updated Overview of Peruvian Electricity Industry, Frost & Sullivan says Peru’s electric industry earned revenues of US$1.02 billion in 2011. That figure is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 5.5% through 2016, when revenues will equal $1.45 billion.

The report also says Peru’s current installed capacity of 7,986 MW is expected to grow by 11,700 MW by 2016.

“The main areas of growth for participants and industry entrants are gas, hydro, renewables, transmission and distribution infrastructure, as well as maintenance, repair, and overhaul for existing power stations,” said Frost & Sullivan analyst Dominic Goncalves.

Adding to Peru’s increased capacity are the 255 MW Santa Rita, 750 MW Santa Maria, 98.5 MW Santa Teresa and 406 MW Chaglla hydro projects.

Institute Hydroproject evaluating safety at Son La Dam in Vietnam

RusHydro Group’s JSC Institute Hydroproject has been evaluating the construction and safety of Vietnam’s 2,400 MW Son La project.

The US$2.5 billion hydropower facility, which began commercial operation in October 2012, will be gauged in a number of areas, Institute Hydroproject says, including the comparison of as-built drawings with the design, analysis of main project structures and properties of construction materials.

The work was expected to be complete by the end of 2012, at which point Institute Hydroproject’s findings would be passed to the State Acceptance Committee.

The project is part of a rendering consultancy services agreement signed between the institute and the country’s Ministry of Construction’s State Authority of Construction Quality Inspection earlier in 2012.

Son La was designed by Institute Hydroproject and is the largest in a cascade of hydro projects located on the country’s Da River. For more on this project, see the article on page 24.

Gilkes to open third U.K. hydro servicing plant

Turbine manufacturer Gilbert Gilkes and Gordon Ltd. plans to open a new Hydro Service Centre in Invergordon, Scotland. This latest servicing plant will complement those already operating in Kendal, England, and Fort William, Scotland.

Gilkes says the Invergordon site will offer annual preventative maintenance inspection for mechanical and electrical components, service contracts, breakdown response and emergency call out, upgrade and modernization services, and insurance inspections.

The company did not specify when the plant is expected to open.

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