Hydropower Modernization and Upgrades

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Hydropower modernization and upgrades involve implementing technological advancements and improvements to existing hydropower plants to enhance their efficiency, performance, reliability, and environmental sustainability. This can include upgrading turbines, generators, control systems, and other equipment, as well as implementing measures to mitigate environmental impacts.

Impact on climate action

Hydropower Modernization and Upgrades innovate climate action by enhancing the efficiency and flexibility of existing hydropower infrastructure. By optimizing operations, reducing environmental impacts, and integrating with renewable energy sources, these upgrades maximize clean energy generation, mitigate emissions, and contribute to a more sustainable energy system.


  • Turbine Upgrades: Replacing older turbines with newer, more efficient models can significantly increase energy production and improve plant performance.
  • Generator Upgrades: Upgrading generators with more efficient and reliable technologies, such as permanent magnet generators, can improve energy conversion and reduce maintenance costs.
  • Control System Modernization: Implementing advanced control systems with digital technologies and AI capabilities can optimize plant operation, improve grid integration, and enhance reliability.
  • Environmental Mitigation Measures: Modernization projects often include measures to mitigate environmental impacts, such as fish passage solutions, sediment management technologies, and habitat restoration efforts.
  • Dam Safety and Rehabilitation: Upgrading dams and other infrastructure to improve safety and extend their lifespan is an important aspect of hydropower modernization.

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Prominent Innovation themes

  • Variable-Speed Turbine Upgrades: Replacing fixed-speed turbines with variable-speed turbines allows for better adaptation to varying water flow conditions, improving efficiency and reducing wear and tear on components.
  • Advanced Generator Technologies: Upgrading to permanent magnet generators or other advanced generator technologies can improve efficiency and reliability.
  • Digitalization and Data Analytics: Implementing digital technologies and data analytics platforms can provide real-time insights into plant performance, enabling predictive maintenance and optimization of operations.
  • Fish-Friendly Turbine Designs: Upgrading to fish-friendly turbine designs can reduce fish mortality and improve the environmental performance of hydropower plants.
  • Sediment Management Technologies: Implementing sediment bypass systems or other sediment management technologies can reduce sediment accumulation behind dams, improving reservoir health and turbine performance.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Turbine Efficiency Enhancement
  • Advanced Generator Technologies
  • Digitalization and Data Analytics for Optimization
  • Environmental Impact Mitigation Strategies
  • Dam Safety and Rehabilitation Innovations
  • Variable-Speed Turbine Upgrades
  • Fish-Friendly Turbine Designs
  • Sediment Management Technologies
  • Control System Modernization
  • Permanent Magnet Generator Implementations
  • Predictive Maintenance Solutions
  • Habitat Restoration Efforts
  • Reservoir Health Improvement Measures
  • Infrastructure Lifespan Extension Strategies
  • Real-Time Performance Monitoring

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Voith Hydro:
    • Technology Enhancement: Voith Hydro is a leading provider of hydropower equipment and services, specializing in modernization and upgrades of existing hydropower plants. Their solutions include turbine and generator upgrades, automation and control system modernization, and performance optimization services. Voith Hydro leverages advanced technologies and digital solutions to enhance the efficiency, reliability, and lifespan of hydropower assets.
    • Uniqueness of the Company: Voith Hydro stands out for its comprehensive portfolio of hydropower modernization solutions and its extensive experience in the hydropower industry. Their tailored upgrades address specific challenges faced by hydropower operators, such as aging infrastructure, changing regulatory requirements, and evolving grid integration needs.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Voith Hydro serves hydropower plant owners, operators, and utilities seeking to improve the performance and competitiveness of their hydropower assets. Their modernization and upgrade solutions are deployed in various types of hydropower plants, including run-of-river, storage, and pumped-storage facilities, helping customers optimize energy production, reduce operating costs, and comply with environmental regulations.
  • Andritz Hydro:
    • Technology Enhancement: Andritz Hydro specializes in the design, manufacturing, and modernization of hydropower equipment and systems. Their modernization solutions encompass turbine and generator upgrades, digitalization and automation solutions, and rehabilitation services for aging hydropower infrastructure. Andritz Hydro integrates advanced technologies such as digital twins, predictive maintenance, and remote monitoring to optimize the performance and reliability of hydropower plants.
    • Uniqueness of the Company: Andritz Hydro stands out for its global presence and expertise in providing customized modernization solutions for hydropower plants of all sizes and types. Their innovative approach to hydropower modernization emphasizes efficiency improvements, environmental sustainability, and long-term asset value enhancement.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Andritz Hydro serves hydropower operators, utilities, and energy companies worldwide, offering tailored modernization solutions to address the specific needs and challenges of each hydropower plant. Their comprehensive range of upgrade services enables customers to maximize the return on investment in hydropower assets while ensuring reliable and sustainable energy production.
  • GE Renewable Energy:
    • Technology Enhancement: GE Renewable Energy offers a wide range of solutions for hydropower modernization and upgrades, leveraging its expertise in power generation equipment, digital solutions, and grid integration technologies. Their modernization offerings include turbine and generator upgrades, control system retrofits, and predictive maintenance solutions powered by advanced analytics and artificial intelligence.
    • Uniqueness of the Company: GE Renewable Energy stands out for its integrated approach to hydropower modernization, combining expertise in equipment manufacturing, digitalization, and project execution. Their solutions focus on improving asset performance, reliability, and flexibility, enabling hydropower operators to adapt to changing market conditions and operational requirements.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: GE Renewable Energy serves hydropower developers, operators, and utilities seeking to enhance the efficiency and competitiveness of their hydropower assets. Their modernization solutions are deployed in a wide range of hydropower plants worldwide, including large-scale facilities, small and medium-sized installations, and pumped-storage projects, supporting sustainable energy production and grid stability.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU):
    • Research Focus: NTNU is a leading institution in research on Hydropower Modernization and Upgrades, focusing on enhancing the efficiency, reliability, and environmental sustainability of existing hydropower infrastructure through advanced technologies and innovative solutions.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves developing novel monitoring systems, sensor technologies, and predictive maintenance algorithms to optimize the performance and lifespan of hydropower assets. They also explore the integration of renewable energy storage, grid flexibility, and hydropower-hybrid systems to enhance energy resilience and grid stability.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in hydropower plants, dams, and water management facilities. By modernizing and upgrading existing hydropower assets, NTNU’s research contributes to maximizing energy generation, minimizing environmental impact, and meeting the evolving needs of the energy transition.
  • Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL):
    • Research Focus: EPFL conducts pioneering research on Hydropower Modernization and Upgrades, leveraging its expertise in fluid mechanics, renewable energy systems, and sustainable engineering to develop cutting-edge technologies for optimizing hydropower performance and operation.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the development of advanced turbine designs, flow control strategies, and hydraulic modeling techniques to increase the efficiency and flexibility of hydropower installations. They also investigate the integration of smart grid technologies, energy storage solutions, and demand-side management to enhance the overall value proposition of hydropower systems.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in run-of-river hydropower plants, pumped storage facilities, and riverine ecosystems. By modernizing and upgrading hydropower infrastructure, EPFL’s research supports the transition to a renewable energy future, mitigating climate change impacts and ensuring sustainable water resource management.
  • Technical University of Munich (TUM):
    • Research Focus: TUM is engaged in innovative research on Hydropower Modernization and Upgrades, leveraging its multidisciplinary approach and state-of-the-art facilities to develop holistic solutions for optimizing the performance, safety, and environmental compatibility of hydropower assets.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves integrating digital twin models, remote sensing technologies, and real-time control systems to monitor, diagnose, and optimize the operation of hydropower plants in dynamic environments. They also explore the use of nature-inspired design principles, bio-inspired materials, and ecosystem-based approaches to enhance the sustainability and resilience of hydropower installations.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in reservoir management, fish passage optimization, and climate adaptation strategies. By modernizing and upgrading hydropower infrastructure, TUM’s research contributes to ensuring the long-term viability and competitiveness of hydropower as a clean and renewable energy source in the transition to a low-carbon future.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Hydropower modernization and upgrade projects are being implemented in numerous hydropower plants around the world, extending the lifespan of these facilities, improving their efficiency and performance, and reducing their environmental impact.