Hydropower structures

Hydropower structures is one of four research areas in HydroCen.

To solve the challenges from enhanced system requirements, the research within HydroCen will focus on strengthening the capabilities of the hydropower system, i.e. power, energy storage, availability and ramping rates. Most countries in Europe are now in a situation where new strategies for energy security and reliability have to be developed like discussed in Manso et al. and Bucher. To give the future hydropower system the flexibility and response required to serve the demand from market, grid, bilateral power cables, new industry, new materials and advances in turbine and generator design, tunnel systems and penstocks must be utilized. This includes research in tunnel systems enabling quick response, increased dampening of surges, cost efficient large scale hydro tunnels, intake and reservoir design adapted to new tunnel systems, power houses constructed for flexible solutions, and reconstruction of dams and reservoirs. Norwegian reservoirs are generally large and can be used for flexible operation. However, further expansion introduces technological and regulatory challenges and will affect power ramping rates and downstream flow requirements. Flexible operation will benefit from more precise inflow modelling that will reduce operational risk of scheduling new hydropower technology and increase the revenue potential.

The framework for dam safety should be continuously improved. Possible natural hazards for example floods, landslides and earthquakes, structural elements in the dam and procedures for supervision, monitoring and emergency action planning should be considered and evaluated. Landslides into reservoirs and failure of dam foundation has caused serious disasters in the past. The risk and consequences of potential future incidents should be analysed. Future evaluation of dam safety measures has to be based on knowledge and specific details in each project, and the future evaluation criteria requires extensive research. This will also increase the downstream safety for all dams.

Construction of new dams and upgrading of existing dams by increasing height, strengthening, increasing lifetime or change of purpose should be based on the best available knowledge. To utilise the extensive untapped value of all existing dams, better methodology and better technical solutions should be developed. Utilization of existing dam structures will normally be more environmental friendly compared to replacing existing dams. New solutions for verification of structural strength and reconstruction of dams should be developed. New materials and new construction methods are likely to influence this research topic significantly in the duration of the FME.

Global total reservoir capacity is reduced each year due to infilling of sediments. According to ICOLD, the storage capacity reduces annually by 0,8% and this results in 0,6 annual reduction of energy production. Thus, prevention of sedimentation build-up in reservoirs and sediments entering turbines is a highly prioritized research topic worldwide.

Norwegian hydropower tunnel design with unlined/shotcrete lined tunnels has a worldwide reputation for cost efficiency and construction methodology. Still, cases of instability and cave-in have occurred, illustrating and emphasizing the need for further development and improvement of this design.


Main objective: To develop new technologies for hydropower structures and dam safety.



  • Develop new technology for headrace tunnels, penstock, surge chambers and enlarging the tunnels

  • Develop methods, solutions and measures to improve dam constructions and dam safety

  • Minimize the influence of sediments in reservoirs through cost-effective and environmental sustainable solutions

  • Optimal use and availability of water along a watercourse in a multipurpose perspective


  • T 1.1 Hydropower tunnels, penstocks and surge chambers
  • T 1.2 Dam construction and dam safety
  • T 1.3 Sediment handling