Hydro Assessment Software Assists Data-Poor Areas
To help remote communities and developing nations adopt sustainable energy infrastructure, Oregon State University researchers recently released an open-source, small-scale hydropower assessment modeling package.
“Our dual goals are to make models that are at the intersection of being state of the art and easy to apply,” says Thomas Mosier, an OSU PhD graduate who worked on the team that developed the Hydropower Potential Assessment Tool (HPAT).
HPAT factors in projected changes in stream runoff and climate change to compute current and future hydropower potential. Most similar assessment tools cannot predict future stream flow, and they are dependent on data often unavailable to developing nations, says Mosier.
The software is also well-suited for developing regions because it promotes less-invasive hydropower technologies.
“Our software focuses on run-of-river hydropower systems, rather than reservoir-based systems,” says Mosier.
Run-of-river hydropower systems generally have a lower environmental impact and are less expensive to construct than reservoir-based systems, such as hydroelectric dams. Run-of-river systems typically divert a portion of the water from the river to harness hydropower while retaining regular navigability of the waterway, says Mosier.
Many state-of-the-art stream-flow modeling tools are focused on making more complex models that require more data, but these are difficult to implement in the regions where these models are most needed, notes Mosier.
“It was developed with the intention of it being used in data-scarce regions,” says Kendra Sharp, a professor of humanitarian engineering at the OSU College of Engineering. And it has been largely remote regions requesting the software. Since announcing HPAT’s availability on June 30, the team already has received 50 requests from all over the world, including from countries such as Nigeria and Papua New Guinea.
Points of Origin
Sharp has created a map (below) that pinpoints the origins of requests. For instance, an engineer is trying to develop hydropower resources in Haiti, which lacks hydropower data. Another comes from a Canadian researcher working in Africa.
“I am very interested in experimenting with the software for one of our projects in Sierra Leone for which we have very limited flow data,” said Anna Le of Midgard Consulting Inc., Vancouver, British Columbia, in an email to Sharp.
The code is available for free at GlobalClimateData.org.