The Energy Department today announced a total of $4.4 million for two projects in Michigan and Pennsylvania to support the use of advanced materials and manufacturing techniques in the development of new “low-head” hydropower technologies. The United States has major opportunities across the country to add new hydropower generating capabilities at low-head sites, which operate with a change in elevation between 2 and 20 meters, including 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.  In support of the Energy Department’s Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, the funding will advance research and development of new technologies that can be quickly manufactured at low cost and rapidly deployed without the need for expensive powerhouses.

  • Eaton Corporation of Southfield, Michigan, 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.

The Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy accelerates development and deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. To learn about the Energy Department’s work in hydropower, please visit the Water Power Program’s hydropower webpage. To learn more about how hydropower captures energy from flowing water, watch this Energy 101 video.