HYDROPOWER PROGRAM

Innovations for Low-Impact Hydropower Growth

Project Name: Restoration Hydro: A Watershed Approach to Standard Modular New Hydropower 

Project Team: Natel Energy (lead); McLaughlin Whitewater; Natural Systems Designs; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Small Hydro Consulting; University of California, Berkeley’s Environmental Systems Dynamics Laboratory; and Wells Engineering 

Lead Recipient Location: Alameda, California 

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Natel Energy developed a modular hydropower concept called Restoration Hydro, which incorporates the company’s Restoration Hydro Turbine. This modular approach can help expand hydropower while supporting safe fish passage, river channel connectivity, and watershed restoration efforts.  

The design process began with detailed site selection criteria that emphasized combining watershed restoration efforts with new hydropower development. Project partner Natural Systems Design led the initial site search, and the team narrowed options to alluvial pockets, which are wider stretches of a river where sediment-rich floodplains are bounded upstream and downstream by steeper, more confined river reaches. These pockets were found to be ideal targets for simultaneous hydropower development and watershed restoration activities such as floodplain reconnection with other river systems, elevated water tables, recharged aquifers, and increased overall wildlife habitat.  

Project partners—including McLaughlin Whitewater; University of California, Berkeley’s Environmental Systems Dynamics Laboratory; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Small Hydro Consulting, LLC; and Wells Engineering, LLC—also collaborated to create a facility design that supports downstream and upstream fish and sediment passage.  

Through this project, Natel developed a framework to identify potential sites for modular hydropower development and a blueprint for future site and facility design using this concept. 

Innovations for Low-Impact Hydropower Growth Projects