Cover of the WPTO 2022–2023 Accomplishments Report

Cover of the Water Power Technologies Office report, "Advanced Manufacturing and Materials for Hydropower Strategy"

The U.S. Department of Energy's Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) today released a strategy that identifies research and development priorities in advanced manufacturing and materials for the hydropower sector. 

Hydropower accounts for 28.7% of total U.S. renewable electricity generation and about 6.2% of total U.S. electricity generation. It plays a critical role on the electricity grid today and will continue to do so as the United States works to achieve a clean electricity sector by 2035. 

However, the hydropower industry relies heavily on traditional manufacturing methods and materials, and the potential benefits of advanced manufacturing and materials applications to hydropower development remain largely unexplored. Advanced manufacturing and materials have shown immense potential to boost the U.S. manufacturing industry, increase American competitiveness, reshore manufacturing capabilities, and revolutionize the energy sector. They also have the potential to alleviate maintenance, environmental and operational challenges at both hydropower and manufacturing facilities. For example, additive manufacturing solutions (also known as 3D printing) can reduce manufacturing waste while enabling modern turbine designs.

In 2023, Oak Ridge National Laboratory released a report summarizing input from stakeholders in relevant sectors on key challenges and opportunities to bolster the hydropower sector using advanced manufacturing and materials. WPTO then developed draft goals and worked with internal and external stakeholders to evaluate and prioritize them. 

Based on this input and feedback, WPTO developed a strategy, which includes three overarching goals, along with eight sub-goals:

Goal 1: Improve the operational reliability of existing hydropower by minimizing maintenance duration, frequency, and cost.

  • Facilitate the adoption of in situ application methods for coatings and repairs that minimize outage time and safety risks through demonstrations and process guidance.
  • Validate the performance and durability of coatings and repair methods for hydropower applications through testing and standards.
  • Support decision-making and deployment of sustainable bearing solutions through active stakeholder engagement.

Goal 2: Expand the design space for hydropower innovations by improving component efficiency, flexibility, and cost.

  • Prioritize and deploy adaptable sensors for new and existing hydropower components with a clear value for decision-making.
  • Reduce the capital costs for micro-hydropower through pilot projects of additively manufactured or prefabricated powertrains.

Goal 3: Enable the adoption of hydropower technologies.

  • Develop methods for quantifying and effectively communicating the value of innovative technologies compared to conventional alternatives.
  • Ensure adequate access to testing capabilities through improved access to existing facilities and the development of new capabilities.
  • Convene multistakeholder groups to expedite the development of targeted standards and testing methods for hydropower applications.

These goals will guide WPTO's efforts related to hydropower and advanced manufacturing. As the advanced manufacturing and materials and hydropower industries evolve, WPTO will continue to engage stakeholders to ensure proper coordination and collaboration.

Read the full Advanced Manufacturing and Materials for Hydropower Strategy.

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