Advanced Hydropower Turbines

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Advanced hydropower turbines are designed to improve the efficiency, performance, and environmental sustainability of hydropower generation. These turbines incorporate innovative designs, materials, and control systems to maximize energy extraction from water resources while minimizing environmental impacts.

Impact on climate action

Advanced Hydropower Turbines within the Hydropower sector elevate climate action by increasing energy efficiency and reducing environmental impact. By optimizing turbine design, these innovations enhance hydropower generation, minimize habitat disruption, and accelerate the transition to clean, renewable energy sources, mitigating carbon emissions and combating climate change.


  • Turbine Design: Different types of hydropower turbines exist, including Francis, Kaplan, Pelton, and cross-flow turbines. Each type is suited for specific water flow conditions and head (the vertical distance between the water intake and the turbine). Advanced designs optimize turbine geometry and blade profiles for improved efficiency and performance.
  • Materials and Manufacturing: Advanced materials, such as composites and high-strength steels, are used to create turbine components that are lightweight, strong, and resistant to cavitation and erosion.
  • Control Systems: Advanced control systems optimize turbine operation based on water flow conditions and grid requirements, maximizing energy production and ensuring grid stability.
  • Environmental Mitigation: Advanced hydropower turbines incorporate features to minimize environmental impacts, such as fish-friendly designs that reduce fish mortality and turbine passage solutions that allow fish to safely bypass the turbine.

TRL : 7-8

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Variable-Speed Turbines: Variable-speed turbines can adjust their rotational speed to match varying water flow conditions, improving efficiency and reducing wear and tear on components.
  • Fish-Friendly Turbine Designs: Innovations in turbine design, such as using smaller runner diameters and adjusting blade angles, can reduce fish mortality and improve the environmental performance of hydropower plants.
  • Turbine Passage Solutions: Fish ladders, fish bypass channels, and other passage solutions allow fish to safely bypass hydropower dams and turbines, mitigating the impact on fish migration and populations.
  • Sediment Management Technologies: Sediment management technologies, such as sediment bypass systems and flushing flows, can reduce the accumulation of sediment behind dams, improving reservoir health and turbine performance.
  • Micro-Hydropower Systems: Micro-hydropower systems are small-scale hydropower turbines that can be used to generate electricity from rivers, streams, or irrigation canals, providing a decentralized and renewable energy source for rural communities and off-grid applications.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Turbine Efficiency Enhancement
  • Composite Materials Integration
  • Smart Control Systems Optimization
  • Wildlife Conservation Solutions
  • Sediment Management Strategies
  • Variable-Speed Turbine Technology
  • Fish Passage Innovations
  • Micro-Hydropower Development
  • Low-Head Turbine Solutions
  • Environmental Impact Reduction Techniques
  • Innovative Blade Designs
  • Reservoir Health Improvement
  • Research in Turbine Fluid Mechanics
  • Turbine Environmental Monitoring

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Natel Energy:
    • Technology Enhancement: Natel Energy focuses on developing low-head hydropower turbines designed for small-scale and distributed hydropower generation. Their technology, known as the Restoration Hydro Turbine (RHT), incorporates innovative blade design and modular construction to maximize energy extraction efficiency from low-flow, low-head water sources. Natel’s turbines are optimized for environmental compatibility, fish passage, and sediment management.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Natel Energy stands out for its commitment to sustainable hydropower development and its focus on addressing the challenges of low-head hydropower sites. Their RHT technology offers a cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution for harnessing energy from small rivers, irrigation canals, and other low-flow waterways, enabling decentralized and community-based hydropower projects.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Natel Energy serves a range of end-users, including rural communities, agricultural irrigation districts, and industrial facilities seeking renewable energy solutions. Their advanced hydropower turbines are deployed in micro-hydro installations, irrigation systems, and water infrastructure projects, providing clean, reliable, and resilient energy generation.
  • Emrgy:
    • Technology Enhancement: Emrgy specializes in distributed hydropower systems using modular, scalable turbines designed for installation in small waterways and industrial channels. Their technology incorporates vertical-axis hydrokinetic turbines that can operate in low-flow, variable-flow, and turbulent water conditions. Emrgy’s turbines feature compact designs, simplified installation, and minimal environmental impact.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Emrgy stands out for its focus on hydrokinetic energy harvesting and its modular turbine platform tailored for distributed generation applications. Their turbines are designed to capture energy from flowing water without the need for dams or impoundments, offering a versatile and sustainable solution for harnessing untapped hydropower resources in urban and industrial settings.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Emrgy serves municipalities, industrial facilities, and water infrastructure operators seeking renewable energy solutions for water conveyance systems, wastewater treatment plants, and riverine environments. Their distributed hydropower systems are deployed in urban rivers, irrigation canals, and industrial channels, providing on-site energy generation and reducing reliance on grid electricity.
  • Turbulent:
    • Technology Enhancement: Turbulent specializes in small-scale hydropower turbines designed for low-head, high-flow water sources such as rivers, streams, and irrigation canals. Their technology utilizes a unique vortex turbine design that enhances energy extraction efficiency and reduces environmental impact compared to traditional propeller turbines. Turbulent’s turbines feature modular construction, easy installation, and fish-friendly design.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Turbulent stands out for its innovative approach to small-scale hydropower generation and its focus on sustainable turbine design. Their vortex turbines are optimized for sites with low head and high flow rates, offering a compact and cost-effective solution for decentralized hydropower projects in rural and remote areas.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Turbulent serves rural communities, agricultural producers, and off-grid installations seeking renewable energy solutions for water-powered electricity generation. Their hydropower turbines are deployed in small rivers, irrigation canals, and agricultural waterways, providing clean energy for local consumption, irrigation pumping, and rural electrification.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU):
    • Research Focus: NTNU is at the forefront of research on Advanced Hydropower Turbines, focusing on developing innovative turbine designs, materials, and control strategies to enhance the efficiency, reliability, and environmental sustainability of hydropower generation.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations, experimental testing, and field measurements to optimize turbine blade profiles, runner geometries, and flow control mechanisms for maximizing energy capture and minimizing adverse environmental impacts such as fish mortality and sediment erosion.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in both new hydropower installations and the retrofitting of existing facilities. By improving turbine performance and reducing environmental footprint, NTNU’s research contributes to the sustainable expansion of hydropower capacity, grid stability, and renewable energy integration.
  • Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL):
    • Research Focus: EPFL conducts pioneering research on Advanced Hydropower Turbines, leveraging its expertise in fluid mechanics, structural dynamics, and renewable energy systems to develop next-generation turbine technologies for efficient and eco-friendly hydropower production.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves exploring novel turbine concepts such as fish-friendly turbines, variable-speed turbines, and underwater turbines to address the challenges of fish passage, flow regulation, and grid integration. They also investigate the use of advanced materials, coatings, and manufacturing techniques to improve turbine durability and performance under harsh operating conditions.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in riverine, tidal, and pumped storage hydropower projects. By advancing turbine design and optimization, EPFL’s research supports the sustainable development of hydropower resources, biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation efforts.
  • Technical University of Munich (TUM):
    • Research Focus: TUM is engaged in innovative research on Advanced Hydropower Turbines, leveraging its interdisciplinary expertise in mechanical engineering, hydrodynamics, and renewable energy technology to develop cutting-edge solutions for enhancing hydropower efficiency and sustainability.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the design, testing, and optimization of turbine components such as runners, bearings, and seals to minimize energy losses, noise emissions, and maintenance requirements. They also explore the integration of renewable energy storage, smart grid controls, and digital twin technologies to optimize hydropower plant operations and maximize economic returns.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in run-of-river, reservoir, and pumped storage hydropower schemes. By improving turbine performance and system flexibility, TUM’s research contributes to the reliable and cost-effective deployment of hydropower as a clean and renewable energy source, supporting the global transition to a low-carbon energy future.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Advanced hydropower turbines are being implemented in hydropower plants around the world, improving efficiency, performance, and environmental sustainability. For example, Natel Energy’s fish-safe turbines have been installed in several hydropower projects in the United States and Europe.