The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovenmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) have established that we have major challenges when it comes to halting both climate change and the loss of natural diversity.
Regulation of watercourses has consequences for the environment by changing the physical conditions for species and organisms in the entire area of influence by the hydropower plant.
A multidisciplinary approach
Experience shows that with good knowledge and interdisciplinary cooperation, it is possible to find good solutions where hydropower is in harmony with nature. Environmental design measures are carried out in collaboration between biologists, hydrologists and experts in power plant operation.
The Environmental Design methodology is mainly used to improve the conditions for salmon, but in HydroCen, further research is carried out to develop extended environmental design for several species, for flood mitigation services and for multi-use interests.
Social benefit from hydropower
Climate change will result in increased rainfall, but also longer periods of drought than before. In regulated watercourses, hydropower will be able to contribute both to dampening floods and to releasing water from the reservoirs during periods of drought, so that the regulation can contribute to improving conditions for aquatic organisms. In this way, hydropower will benefit society, in addition to the power production itself, by being able to mitigate the negative effects of climate change on society and the environment.
The climate crisis (emission of greenhouse gases) and the nature crisis (degradation of nature) are closely linked and reinforce each other. The development of more renewable energy will lead to further degradation of nature.
Rebuilding and expansion
By upgrading and/or expanding existing hydropower plants, we will be able to get more power out of the existing hydropower system with minimal new land interventions.
By also using the environmental design methodology in the watercourses to look at the potential for environmental measures or more environmentally friendly use of water, it will also be possible to improve the environmental conditions in the watercourses. HydroCen is researching the potential for upgrading and expansion while safeguarding the environment.
A changed energy market in the form of an increasing share of variable power production (eg wind and solar energy) will also mean a need for adjustable hydropower. Hydropower has an advantage compared to other renewable energy sources because water can be stored in the reservoirs and produce power when needed.
More hydropeaking and flexible operation
This will result in changes in hydropower production through a changeover to flexible operation and hydropeaking. Hydropeaking means that the hydropower plant is started and stopped frequently and quickly. This will cause rapid and frequent changes in water flow with accompanying consequences for life in the river, for example the stranding of salmon fry. Having good knowledge will be important to be able to run the hydropower plant flexibly and at the same time take the environment into account, reducing the environmental consequences of watercourse regulation in the future.
The research from HydroCen will contribute to making hydropower as environmentally friendly as possible, while producing more power with minimal land encroachment and also contributing to other community services such as flood mitigation.