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Hydropower Research

NREL offers a range of capabilities in hydropower research to achieve responsible deployment of hydropower technologies.

Photo of water rushing out of the spillways of a dam.

NREL is the only U.S. national laboratory dedicated to advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency. NREL's water research leverages decades of experience in renewable and hybrid energy system analysis and world-class infrastructure to increase the value of hydropower technologies.


NREL's hydropower research capabilities include:

Workers install a large wave energy converter at NREL's 5-MW dynamometer facility.

Technology Validation and Optimization

We use our electrical and mechanical laboratory validation and optimization capabilities to improve performance and reliability, decrease capital costs, and reduce risk for small hydropower technologies. Our structural testing infrastructure can also be used to validate novel concepts.

A boat towing a wave energy conversion device at sea.

Design, Simulation, and Standards

NREL's long-term partnerships with the hydropower industry have led to the development of numerous hydropower design and simulation tools. In addition, our staff is involved in the development of standards to encourage acceptance and global deployment of hydropower generation.

Two researchers discuss images on an illuminated wall.

Energy and Economic Analysis

NREL's hydropower researchers develop cost models and tools to evaluate the economic potential of power-generating devices for all technology readiness levels.

Aerial photo of Glen Canyon Dam.

Regulatory Analysis

Our legal and regulatory analysis helps industry develop hydropower projects by providing information about hydropower-related regulatory requirements, techniques for navigating the regulatory approval process, and supporting quantitative and qualitative data.

Grid Integration

NREL collaborates with system operators, utilities, reliability organizations, and equipment manufacturers to optimize the integration of water-powered generation resources into the grid and develops operating practices, energy storage approaches, and advanced technologies that maximize their value. This work supports initiatives such as HydroWIRES.

Market Acceleration

NREL's market acceleration activities support the next generation of water power professionals. We leverage decades of experience engaging with stakeholder communities to understand barriers to technology adoption, identify issues and drivers, provide feedback to the R&D community, and facilitate market adoption.


Greg Stark

Researcher V – Electrical Engineering |