What does Sustainable Hydropower mean?

Hydropower might be the world’s oldest form of renewable energy but the industry is constantly modernising. Recent developments include the emergence of Sustainable Hydropower, a growing sector that recognises the importance of biodiversity and respecting surrounding communities and ecosystems.

 

Typical sustainable hydropower installations are low head run-of-river systems with in-stream turbines. Many are micro, mini or small-scale projects. Technological trends include fish-friendly turbines and fish passes to allow for continued aquatic migrations – mandatory for regulatory approval in many regions worldwide. These are dam-less projects which are less intrusive in the landscape, developed with respect to river conservation concerns. Smaller, environmentally friendly design makes sustainable hydropower systems particularly suitable for decentralised energy generation and remote installation.

 

Remote control and operation is also increasingly important, allowing hydro installations to be adjusted according to changes in water volume, such as during drier summer months. This minimises negative impact on downstream communities and ecosystems and is a responsiveness which allows for partnership with the variable power from wind and solar sources.

 

There is increasing interest in hydropower’s potential to restore lost natural habitats, regulate river flows and reduce flooding risk. Have a look at our Eaton Socon case study with its restored eel migration routes for an example of the positive impacts that can be designed into hydropower installations.

The IHA has more information on sustainable hydropower. Read about it here