Hydroelectric power projects are complex and can be lengthy and expensive to construct. Hydropower projects usually have high initial costs, low operating costs and project lives of 50 years or more. Even with excellent hydro resources, engineering must be thorough to insure a positive return on investment. This consists of an involved process with many things to consider. Project development phases include reconnaissance, feasibility, licensing & design, and finally construction.
A reconnaissance study is a preliminary feasibility study that serves to determine if the project warrants a full feasibility study. This is usually the very first step when considering a hydroelectric project for development.
A reconnaissance study includes the following elements:
A feasibility study is a detailed study to determine the technical, economic, and environmental feasibility of potential hydroelectric development. Considerable time is spent in the examination and assessment of the proposed project. Decisions are made at this stage to determine if the project should be continued.
A feasibility study is performed as follows:
The design process is the time when the characteristics and features of the project are explored, determined, and integrated together. This involves complex modeling, in-depth analysis of the site and materials, and integration of the parts into one large system.
Tasks done in the design phase include:
Construction is the final stage of the process in hydroelectric development. This is the act of building the system and installing it into the hydro site. This is the most visible stage of the project.
Further Information regarding the process of hydroelectric development can be found on the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Alaska Dam Safety websites.