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Oak Ridge National Laboratory


Modernizing a Century-Old Power Giant

New report rethinks hydroelectric solutions

Published: Wednesday, May 24, 2023 - 11:59

(Oak Ridge National Laboratory: Oak Ridge, TN) -- More than 100 years ago, the hydropower industry, which today generates 32 percent of all U.S. renewable energy, was built using traditional manufacturing processes. But surging energy demand, higher material costs, and supply chain hurdles have led researchers to rethink the manufacturing of hydropower equipment.

A new report published by Oak Ridge National Laboratory assessed how advanced manufacturing and materials, such as 3D printing and novel component coatings, could offer solutions to modernize the existing fleet and design new approaches to hydropower.

For the assessment, ORNL brought together representatives from the hydropower industry, advanced manufacturing industries, research institutions, and groups committed to environmental stewardship.

Their collaboration identified existing infrastructure challenges and ways in which advanced manufacturing could enhance new design capabilities, improve system and component performance, reduce reliance on foreign manufacturing, and better address environmental concerns.

“Hydropower has enormous potential in securing a cleaner, more sustainable energy future,” says ORNL’s Mirko Musa. “We can build upon its success, layer by layer.”

First published March 27, 2023, on ORNL News.

This newly manufactured fixed guide vane of a hydropower turbine system was printed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s manufacturing demonstration facility at ORNL. Credit: Genevieve Martin/ORNL, U.S Department of Energy.


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Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a multiprogram science and technology laboratory managed for the U.S. Department of Energy by the University of Tennessee-Battelle LLC. Scientists and engineers at ORNL conduct basic and applied research and development to create scientific knowledge and technological solutions that strengthen the nation's leadership in key areas of science; increase the availability of clean, abundant energy; restore and protect the environment; and contribute to national security.