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About Us | Waterpower

Innovations in Water Power Technologies

Hydropower is the largest source of renewable energy and utility-scale energy storage in the United States. It accounts for 6% of the total electricity generation in the country. With millions of miles of rivers and lakes across the nation, there is great potential to increase renewable energy production through water power technologies. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) research and development activities are focused on lowering the costs of hydropower, enhancing hydropower’s contributions to the resiliency and reliability of the nation’s electric power grid, and studying ways to reduce environmental impacts and improve the regulatory process for hydropower.

Research and Development

ORNL’s research on water power technologies focuses on cost reduction and performance improvement to increase power generation at existing hydropower facilities and accelerate sustainable implementation of new facilities. These research efforts leverage key ORNL strengths in data analytics, high-performance computing, materials science, environmental science, and advanced manufacturing. Focus areas include the following.

Tools for decision-making
Providing tools and technologies to assist with design and real-time optimization of hydropower generation that reduce costs and increase efficiency.

Data analytics
Generating key data and models that enable new research and development and improve the operations, value, and sustainability of entire fleets of hydropower facilities.


Early-stage technologies
Developing new composite turbine designs, floating membrane reservoirs, and pumped-storage technologies to accelerate the growth of US hydropower generation.