Today we are going to find a greenfield hydropower site using HydroDesk. It must fulfill an aggressive criterion: can it hit 20% equity IRR on a flat US$0.05 tariff?
To make our lives harder, we are also going to impose all the criteria below on this site:
- Must not be in an environmentally protected area
- Backwater inundation must be far from any communities or farms
- The dam must be lower than 15m (an industrial benchmark for a large dam)
- Must be a run of river project
- Must be about 40MW
- The gross capacity factor must exceed 70% (baseload)
This article is divided into three parts:
- In Part 1 (the page you are currently on), we “window shop” the terrain using HydroDesk’s prospecting tools. This allows us to make rough estimates on which river segments could fulfill our criteria.
In Part 2, we zero in on a candidate location and design a full project around it.
In Part 3, we simulate the get project and take a view on the predicted equity IRR.
Let’s get started with Part 1!
Any prospecting exercise begins with turning on the
River Slope and
Protected Areas layers:
When we do this, you will see many snippets of small colored lines which may seem confusing:
This is because the default
River Length value is at
100m. Let’s see what happens when we change it to
Now it’s much better.
River Length here means that we are measuring the slope over constant segments of 1,000 meters.
In order of descending slope, the colors denote
Green [16.67m/1,000m] etc.
Now let’s zoom in to the red location near the top. The slope value we see here is
104 - which means
We don’t know how big this river is. Let’s turn on the river layer.
You will see there are two sub-toggles
Flow. Catchment will be in
Flow (average annual discharge) will be in
We found a pretty steep place but it’s a tiny one, to the point that the satellite image doesn’t show even show the river. Now let’s change the
Min Catchment (km2) under
River Slope to
All rivers smaller than
There are now very few pink or yellow lines and there are almost no red lines! As expected big rivers are usually not steep. But after panning the map for a while, we manage to find one red segment which has a catchment of
As we zoom in to this location, we see from the image that we found a real waterfall - with a pond right underneath. Nice!
This seems like a very picturesque recreational location for communities who live nearby. Let’s takes a quick look upstream and downstream. About 3km upstream, I find another pink segment which has a slightly smaller catchment of
Before we go any further, let’s check whether this pink segment is in a protected area by turning on the
Protected Areas layer:
There are a few such areas but they are about 20 to 40km south of our candidate location. We seem to be in the clear for now. We should perform a check again later when we are drawing the transmission line and access roads.
Now let’s use the
Dam Permutations tool to understand the characteristics of this pink segment better. This is under
Toolkit (bottom right corner):
We draw a dam crest that is perpendicular to and crosses the river line. HydroDesk will automatically find where the dam crest touches the banks of the river. We just have to draw a long line.
The following things will then happen:
HydroDesk will find the river line automatically
it will draw cross sections along the river line to figure out the
- dam crest length,
- dam face area,
- inundation area and
- inundation volume
for three different dam heights at each cross section (you can modify these heights).
Note that we did all of this in about 5 clicks!
This is a very powerful feature that you can use in a variety of ways to reduce inundation impact and construction costs. You can also imagine using
Dam Permutations in low-head, high flow, flat rivers which can have a wide variety of inundation scenarios.
In this exercise though, we will just arbitrarily decide that our dam location will be at the beginning of the pink segment to exploit the natural head.
To take a closer look at the slope of the river segment, we click on
We now see in greater detail that the first segment has
67m of gross head over a
1,000m distance. The second yellow segment is
Combined, these two segments have a gross head of 140m over 2,400m. If we add a 15m dam and assume a design flow of 30m3/s, we found our 40MW, baseload site!
We are going to stop here for Part 1. Here’s a summary of what we did:
Turn on the River Slopes layer and panned the map for high slope rivers
Based on a target installed capacity, filter out small rivers in the River Slopes layer
Ascertain candidate locations we are looking at do not encroach protected areas
Perform dam permutations to check for dam length, dam face area and inundation
Generate a river line geometry to view its elevation profile in detail
Our candidate location has
- a head of 140m over a 2.4km relatively straight river,
- a catchment area of 475km2,
- an annual average discharge (Q50) of 30m3/s and
- can easily be ~40MW in size for base load power (>70% capacity factor).
In Part 2, we will design a project and draw all the necessary structures around this pink and yellow segments.
Disclaimer: Any resemblance to any schemes or projects under development in the particular area used in this post is entirely a coincidence.