Hydroelectric Power: Room for Growth? Or Swelled Up?

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Hydroelectric Power: Room for Growth? Or Swelled Up?

For years there’s been a constant debate as to the efficiency and longevity of the hydroelectric power supply in the US.

Chief Joseph Dam, Washington, US

Chief Joseph Dam, Washington, US

Hydroelectric power uses flowing water to spin a turbine connected to a generator to produce electricity. According to the National Hydropower Association (NHA), “the water flows through the turbines, turning blades which are connected to a shaft that spins a generator, and generates power that is then sent out to homes and businesses through transmission lines.”

There is no doubt that the public’s interest in renewable energies will continue to grow, and hydropower is one of the oldest forms of electric generating technology. The average age of a US hydro plant is 64 years. With the proper maintenance, the equipment lifetime is expected to exceed 100 years; and maintenance investments have not been overlooked. From 2007 to 2016 $8.7 billion was invested in refurbishments and upgrades.

SIFCO ASC can play an essential role in the in the maintenance schedule of turbines by restoring critical dimensions and providing corrosion protection on a variety of components. Deposits frequently used to maintain and repair turbines include:

  • Nickel for pre-braze operations, wear resistance, dimensional restoration and corrosion protection

  • AeroNikl® sulfamate nickel provides defect-free, adherent, high quality nickel deposits in three hardness levels (250, 400, and 575 Hv)

  • Copper for defect repair and conductivity

Depending on policy changes, the NHA is hopeful that by 2025 the US hydropower industry could install 60,000 MW of new capacity. The NHA estimates that this 60,000 MW is only 15% of the market’s untapped potential. But, in order to grow sustainably, the hydro industry will need to focus on projects that utilize the existing infrastructure. Adding more efficient generating equipment to existing facilities and adding electricity generating capacity to dams that have none today can open vast amounts of renewable energy generation for the US.

But some still believe the market has reached its growth potential. With aging facilities, the significant costs associated with building new ones, and the erratic climate, the value of hydropower becomes more and more uncertain. In times of drought, as experienced in California, residents can expect to see an increase in costs and greenhouse gas emissions, as natural gas-powered plants (and coal in some developing countries) have to temporarily fill in the main energy source. It’s good for any state to have a diversified energy mix. While renewables should be used 100%, in times of crisis when there is no wind, rain, or sun, fossil fuels will be used as a backup.

Despite the uncertainty in the existing infrastructure, or the current climate, the US Department of Energy wants to ensure a system that is “reliable, resilient, and affordable long into the future.” And according to a recent DOE report, hydropower is included in that future. “Hydropower, nuclear, coal and natural gas power plants provide [essential reliability services] and fuel assurance critical to system resilience.”

No matter what side of the dam argument you are on, they will continue to stand for decades to come – continuing to provide a source of renewable energy, which shouldn’t be discounted so easily.

For more information on turbine repair from SIFCO ASC, click here. Or contact us at 800-765-4131 or info@sifcoasc.com.