A type of hydroelectric technology known as “run-of-river” hydropower is set to grow 10-fold over the next decade, potentially becoming a $1.4 billion industry, according to Dutch turbine maker Tocardo International BV. Run-of-river hydropower stations redirect part of a waterway through a diversion to spin turbines and generate electricity.
Run-of-river is considered a more benign type of hydropower than large dam projects because it is a smaller-scale technology that doesn’t create large upstream reservoirs that flood ecosystems and disrupt a river’s natural flow.
Some conservation groups are concerned that problems with migratory fish passage and other environmental issues could outweigh the power-generating potential of run-of-river hydro projects. Tocardo notes, however, that flow monitoring and ecosystem protection strategies, such as fish ladders, are an important part of run-of-river hydropower deployment. The company implemented its first project to harness tidal streams at Den Oever, Holland, and it has been generating power for five years.