Hydropower is one of the world’s leading sources for power generation and currently generates a significant percentage of our electricity worldwide. It is considered to be the most flexible and consistent renewable energy source because it has low operational and maintenance costs and on average, a scheme can last around 80 to 100 years, with very little maintenance.
Hydropower also outlasts the likes of nuclear, wind farms and solar power schemes. This has prompted governments from countries to emphasize the need for increased investment in hydropower, in order to achieve sustainable development.
But to achieve this growth, research and development into innovation is vitally important. So, what can we do to improve hydropower technologies?
Despite impressive statistics from Norway, there remains significant scope for innovation in hydropower that can further improve and reduce overall costs for the energy industry, making this form of renewable energy more accessible. It is estimated that nearly a billion people in the world today have no access to electricity - this is around14 per cent of the world’s population. Increasing access to clean forms of energy makes a critical contribution to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, set by the United Nations to ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy services by 2030.
Pelton Wheel Turbine
Unlike other forms of renewable energy, the basic principles of hydropower technology have not changed in hundreds of years meaning it’s not naturally an innovative technology. In fact, hydropower is truly a type of technology used more than 2,000 years ago in ancient Greece.
The basic principle of water flowing through turbines to create energy is unlikely to change. But recently, there has been a major emphasis on innovation in the digitalization of processes that will provide significant benefits to the the renewable energy industry, such as smarter electricity systems, drone use or artificial intelligence.
This is a key future research area as this type of digitalization can provide more sophisticated data which in turn will assist energy generators to better predict how their infrastructure will perform over time, including when the hardware needs maintenance for more efficient operation.
Innovation is inevitable, and technologies, digital or not, will progress as time goes on because it has to. Sustainable clean energy sources are vital to the future of our planet and with a little bit of commitment to innovation, we can get there sooner than we think.