Dams with head increaser effect: Harnessing potential and kinetic power from rivers with large head and flow variation

Julian David Hunt, Edward Byers, Reinhard Prenner, Marcos Aurélio Vasconcelos de Freitas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


There is an enormous untapped potential for hydropower generation in rivers with large head and high flow variation, currently not feasible for conventional hydropower dams. Conventional dams make use of the potential energy, but waste kinetic energy from spillage during periods of high flows. This article studies the possibility of harnessing energy from potential and kinetic energy from hydropower dams with large head and flow variation, analyses its potential, and shows possible technologies. Focus is given to a Moveable Hydro-Electric Power Plant (HEPP) system in which the turbine module can be adjusted according to the flow and water level in the river. During floods the exceeding flows can pass above and below the Moveable HEPP results in a sub-pressure environment after the turbine module, thereby reducing the dam's downstream head, increasing the pressure difference between the turbine inlet and outlet and the flow through the turbine, which increases the electricity generation of the dam. Dams with head increaser arrangement have been implemented in several dams in the 1930–1950s and now are regaining attention in Middle Europe. The main intention for its implementation is harnessing hydropower generation at run-of-river plants, with low-head, with a 20%–30% cost reduction, lower flooded area at the dam site, the resulting evaporation and the impact on the aquatic fauna. A case study was performed with the proposal of the Aripuanã Moveable HEPP in the Madeira River with a 26 ms height dam and a generation capacity of 1400 MW. The increase in generation with the head increaser effect is as high as 21%. The estimated potential for this technology in the Amazon region is 20 GW. Other potential locations are discussed in the article. Dams with head increaser effect have been successfully implemented and have the potential to become a major alternative for base load renewable energy in the future.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-561
Number of pages13
JournalEnergy Conversion and Management
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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