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Water Power

Modeling the Value of Networked, Small-Hydro Generators for Dispatchable Power and Grid Storage

Company Name: Natel Energy Inc.
Program Office: Water Power
Location: Alameda, CA
Award Amount: $145,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): National Renewable Energy Laboratory


As the amount of variable generation on the grid increases, power markets can benefit from short-term, storage-linked power production and low-cost, highly flexible, low-emission ancillary services. Natel Energy's hydroEngine appears to offer these capabilities, but Natel needs help in quantifying the value of its small hydro system to the hydropower industry and to utility stakeholders.

To date, Natel has been able to value its offering via levelized cost of energy analysis; however, grid-level analysis that demonstrates the value of the product in times of grid stress and at varying renewables penetration is outside Natel's current capabilities. By working with the Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to estimate the potential value streams for differing scenarios – for example, evaluating results given various renewable portfolio standard targets – Natel will be better able to target its product offerings to both current and future energy-market needs.

If successful, Natel Energy will use the study results to engage the hydropower industry and utility stakeholders regarding the value of small hydro for both the grid of today and the grid of the future.


Natel Energy's low-head turbine can be easily installed in existing waterways, and is expected to have 15 percent to 20 percent lower capital costs and 30 percent to 50 percent lower installation costs than traditional turbines.  Additionally, Natel Energy's hydroEngine is fish friendly; this lessens the system's environmental impact.


Natel's hydroEngine is designed to provide reliable, dispatchable power and ancillary services(i) at significantly reduced civil works costs. When paired with short-term storage, it has the potential to help the grid support increased amounts of variable generation, lessening emissions and costs of both power generation and ancillary services that support the grid's continuous flow of electricity. The study results will enable Natel to engage the hydropower industry and utility stakeholders regarding the value of small hydro to the grid. Natel anticipates that the study results will help the market for small hydro to grow significantly.

(i) Ancillary services are the specialty services and functions provided by the electric grid that facilitate and support the continuous flow of electricity so that supply will continually meet demand. The term ancillary services is used to refer to a variety of operations beyond generation and transmission that are required to maintain grid stability and security. These services generally include, frequency control, spinning reserves and operating reserves. Traditionally ancillary services have been provided by generators, however, the integration of intermittent generation and the development of smart grid technologies have prompted a shift in the equipment that can be used to provide ancillary services.

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