Klein and Fox find inconsistencies in studies evaluating small hydropower projects
Hydropower can move beyond enormous, Earth-altering infrastructure. Despite a growing trend of dam removals to preserve and restore ecology and indigenous ways of life, small hydropower projects have the potential to contribute more to a renewable energy future because they can be reliable, flexible and cost-effective, according to a review from the University of Maine.
Small hydropower projects are defined by the U.S. Department of Energy as any that produce less than 60 MW, though the exact classification of subclasses within the “small” range can be debatable. UMaine researchers Sharon Klein, associate professor at the School of Economics and Mitchell Center Faculty Fellow, and Emma Fox, Klein’s former graduate student, categorized the cost and performance metrics used to evaluate the different types of small hydropower projects and compared the results of these metrics across 13 different studies of small hydropower projects conducted in multiple countries across four continents.
“This literature review was an important first step in the research we conducted for the National Science Foundation-funded Future of Dams project. We were creating a benefit-cost model of small hydropower in New England and wanted to know what results other researchers had found. It turned out, no one had yet published a full review of the metrics we were seeking to calculate, and it was a lot of work to harmonize data from multiple studies to be comparable,” Klein says.