Analysis of Supply Chains and Advanced Manufacturing of Small Hydropower Systems

Parthiv Kurup, Dale Jenne, Patrick O'Connor, Jason Cotrell, Timothy Remo

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Clean energy manufacturing is a sector of increasing importance both in the United States and worldwide. In the United States, it has been presented as an engine for job creation in a sector of the U.S. economy that was hit hard by the 2008-2009 recession. The Clean Energy Manufacturing Analysis Center (CEMAC), sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), conducts credible, objective, industry-relevant, recurring, and consistent analyses of clean energy technologies. In this project, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) collaborated in a hydropower manufacturing and supply chain analysis primarily for U.S. small hydropower (SHP) market to provide insights on supply chain constraints, manufacturing cost, location factors, and opportunities for hydropower using advanced manufacturing technologies. The goal of the project is to improve understanding of the manufacturing opportunities in the U.S. hydropower supply chain, specific competitive advantages, and factors for manufacturing location decisions for SHP. These insights could be used to inform investment and research strategies, policy, and other decisions that could promote economic growth and strengthen U.S. manufacturing capabilities. The project scope included a design for manufacturing and assembly (DFMA) costs analysis and a levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) sensitivity analysis of modular, representative SHP turbines. A representative SHP system was chosen to be made up of two 5 megawatt (MW) turbines, as these Kaplan style turbines could be useable for many non-powered dams (NPDs) across the U.S. The sensitivity analysis used the Integrated Design and Assessment (IDEA) tool, which has helped highlight the impact of the turbine equipment cost on the potential capital expenditure (CAPEX) and LCOE of the installed, representative system. In addition, the project team analyzed international tradeflows (e.g., export and import of hydropower turbines and the parts used in hydropower systems). As part of this project, hydropower stakeholder interviews were undertaken to help identify insights related to hydropower manufacturing opportunities for U.S. players in SHP, the country-specific manufacturing advantages in the United States and threats, and key factors behind manufacturing location decisions made by the SHP industry. Key opportunities for the US SHP market and industry include: Foreign export markets such as Chile, China, Columbia, India and Japan, have an estimated 71,795 MW of technical potential that could be serviced with SHP installations. Utilization of existing manufacturing capacity and expertise, along with economies of scale benefits, could result in increased global competitiveness through lower investment requirements and component costs, which could lead to increased U.S. strength in the export of SHP systems and components. Technology advances such as modular turbine designs, standardized units for conduit systems, precast systems, and improved powertrain technologies could help reduce costs, particularly for manufacturing a small number of units. The DOE is also exploring modular hydropower designs, which would integrate standard independently-produced components, validated to meet multiple specifications. Using modules in product design simplifies manufacturing activities such as inspection, testing, assembly, and purchasing, may increase economies of scale to lower total system cost. There are significant opportunities for the use of composites and Additive Manufacturing (AM) for hydropower components, when design changes are made to hydropower systems. By taking advantage of the corrosion resistance, light-weighting and structural benefits, composites and AM could help significantly alter hydropower structures and installations.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages59
StatePublished - 2018

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-71511


  • advanced manufacturing
  • clean energy manufacturing
  • hydropower
  • supply chains


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