Water, solar and wind are essential for a sustainable transformation of our energy systems. Distributed solar and wind farms proliferate, but energy harvesting from water is trapped in a century-old damming paradigm with high up-front costs and ecological impacts. And yet, as a river runs down to the ocean, there is enormous amount of kinetic energy that could be sustainably harvested, if done without impoundments that break up the run of the river. An environmentally friendly alternative, known as hydrokinetic or run-of-the-river power extraction, harvests a portion of the kinetic energy in the river at relatively small, local scales at multiple places along the river. However, these projects are characterized by uncertainty in generated output and strong weather/climate dependence. They are typically developed in an ad-hoc manner without prior large-scale analysis of determining optimum locations, online analysis of the produced output, or effective decentralized control of distributed hydrokinetic generators. Furthermore, climate change introduces highly variable weather patterns that alternate benign conditions with catastrophic levels of wind, precipitation, temperature extremes, and droughts.

Our project on Climate-Aware Renewable Hydropower Generation and Disaster Avoidance Research addresses these challenges by developing climate-aware modeling, analysis, and control for large-scale sustainable energy harvesting in river networks. The project goals are:

  1. modeling of time-space varying river network flow conditions and water levels both with and without multiple hydrokinetic generators;
  2. determining optimum locations for hydrokinetic units in a distributed river network based on economic, reliability-driven, and environmental criteria;
  3. evaluating environmental sensor requirements for demand/response or environmental disaster avoidance;
  4. predictive matching of hydrokinetic power generation and time-varying demand in complex river networks with geospatial and temporal dependencies; and
  5. climate-aware planning for distributed hydrokinetic power generation resources and avoiding catastrophic events.

This research is supported by NSF CyberSEES program through grants 1331804, 1331761, 133160, and 1331768.