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Hydropower Research

NREL works to achieve responsible deployment of hydropower research through grid optimization, regulatory roadmapping, and economic analysis. In addition, its facilities are available to support hydropower technology validation and design optimization.

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


NREL's research and development capabilities in hydropower technologies cover the spectrum from design, simulation, and standards, to technology validation and energy and economic analysis, to grid integration and market acceleration.

Photo of an engineer inspecting a hydroelectric dam.

Technology Validation

NREL's on-campus facilities allow engineers to assess hydropower components for performance and reliability in a controlled environment, allowing devices to be optimized prior to expensive and time-consuming open-water validation.

Photo of electric power lines at sunset with a dam spillway in the background.

Design, Simulation, and Standards

NREL has enjoyed long-term, ongoing partnerships with the hydropower industry that have led to developing design and simulation tools in generic and open-source forms. In addition, staff has been involved in developing standards in collaboration with industry to warrant acceptance and global deployment of hydropower generation.

Aerial photo of Glen Canyon Dam.

Energy and Economic Analysis

NREL's hydropower researchers evaluate cost-reduction pathways through the primary cost drivers such as civil infrastructure and turbo-machinery. Using these methodologies, tools, and direct industry data, they analyze the near- and long-term cost of energy potential for hydropower technologies.

Photo of power lines at sunset.

Grid Integration

NREL's suite of power-system-modeling tools can simulate various aspects of operating on the grid. Using these models, analysts can evaluate the impact and value of all types of hydropower generation on the power system.

Photo of a hydroelectric plant at a dam on the Columbia River in Washington.

Market Acceleration

NREL's market acceleration and deployment team articulates the potential impacts and benefits of water power technologies—including those related to manufacturing, siting, permitting, and workforce development—to state and local communities.

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Hydropower Research Leads

Hydropower research leads at NREL focus on increasing hydropower as a renewable resource in the United States through upgrades made to existing hydropower dams and adding power to nonpowered dams.

Photo of Al LiVecchi

Al LiVecchi

Lab Program Manager


Elise DeGeorge

Project Leader Hydropower