Thapa, S., Magee, T., and Zagona, E. (2022). "Factors That Affect Hydropower Flexibility," Water 14(16), 2563 [Special Issue: Feature Papers of Water-Energy Nexus] ( 
Head shot of Sumi Thapa

Flexibility in power systems is the potential to increase or decrease generation relative to scheduled generation or when most valuable. Increased penetration of variable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar increases the need for flexibility. Conventional hydropower plants are an important source of flexibility due to their ability to shut down and start generation units at short notice. However, there are not metrics or standards for hydropower managers to measure or quantify the potential flexibility of their systems. This novel study identifies key hydro system characteristics—physical and operational factors as well as the power markets—that, in our experience with real hydro systems, affect flexibility. A realistic but fictional system is analyzed that includes operating policies, deployment of reserves, physical aspects such as size of reservoirs, network configuration and power markets. The system is first modeled per “business as usual” operating rules to maximize total economic value of generation. The flexibility analysis measures the generation that can be increased or decreased in a single day by either maximizing the total on-peak generation in the upward direction or minimizing the total nadir generation in the downward direction. Results show the effects of each factor on both upward and downward flexibility.

Keywords: hydropower flexibility, hydropower models, reservoirs, renewable energy, optimization, energy generation, hydropower systems

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