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Technology to retrofit nonpowered dams such as the Lake Sequoyah Dam in North Carolina could be tested before deploying to ensure performance and reliability. Credit: Scott DeNeale/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have identified a key need for future hydropower innovations – full-scale testing – to better inform developers and operators before making major investments.

Conduit hydropower presents opportunities in every state. Credit: ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Millions of miles of pipelines and conduits across the United States make up an intricate network of waterways used for municipal, agricultural and industrial purposes.

ORNL is studying how climate change may impact water availability for hydropower facilities such as the Shasta Dam and Lake in California. Credit: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

ORNL has provided hydropower operators with new data to better prepare for extreme weather events and shifts in seasonal energy demands caused by climate change.

Melton Hill Dam

To further the potential benefits of the nation’s hydropower resources, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed and maintain a comprehensive water energy digital platform called HydroSource.

non-powered dam

Although more than 92,000 dams populate the country, the vast majority — about 89,000 — do not generate electricity through hydropower.

ORNL researchers deploy a gas trap to measure ebullitive (bubbling) emissions of methane at the Melton Dam in East Tennessee. The trap is deployed for ~ 24 hours to allow gas to accumulate in the trap. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, US Dept. of Energy

As the United States moves toward more sustainable and renewable sources of energy, hydropower is expected to play a pivotal role in integrating more intermittent renewables like wind and solar to the electricity grid

A large generator is installed at the Meldahl hydropower plant in Kentucky. The energy sector anticipates longer lead times in procuring such large components for increasing construction and modernization of U.S. hydropower plants. Credit: American Municipal Power

A new Department of Energy report produced by Oak Ridge National Laboratory identifies several supply chain must-haves in maintaining the pivotal role hydropower will play in decarbonizing the nation’s grid.

ORNL’s Brenda Pracheil, left, and Kristine Moody collect water samples at Melton Hill Lake using a sophisticated instrument that collects DNA in the water to determine fish species and number of fish in the water, which could prove useful for monitoring hydropower impacts. Credit: Carlos Jones, ORNL/U.S Dept. of Energy

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are using a novel approach in determining environmental impacts to aquatic species near hydropower facilities, potentially leading to smarter facility designs that can support electrical grid reliability.