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About Us | Waterpower

Innovations in Water Power Technologies

Hydropower accounts for 6 percent of total electricity generation and is the largest source of renewable energy and utility-scale energy storage 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 research and development activities are focused on lowering the costs of hydropower, enhancing hydropower’s contributions to the resilience 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 water power technologies research 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 are listed below. 

Decision-making tools

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

Data analytics and modeling

Generating key data and models that enable new R&D 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