High capital constraints in the large hydropower market coupled with major land & environmental constraints are reasons that have given a boost to the underground hydropower plant market. Usually hydroelectric power projects developed on medium-to-large scale for serving an industrial plant or small communities are called underground hydro projects. Although the generating capacity that can be termed as the upper limit for an underground hydro project is not clearly outlined, it may range from 30MW to 6000MW. Such projects may be either grid connected or stand alone depending on the specific purpose for its construction. Underground hydropower has huge potential in most areas of the world that still remain untapped. The primary benefit of such projects is low environmental impact. It is not possible to draw connections from the main electrical supply grid in remote regions especially with hilly terrain. In such scenarios, stand alone underground hydro projects satisfy the requirements for electricity supply without involving high cost extensions of electrical grid to remote regions. With global focus on environmental conservation and drive for renewable energy generation, the concept of decentralized renewable sources of generation has huge potential.
Some other factors driving this market include reduced cost of electricity, quicker pay back periods, regulatory & policy support and increased flexibility of supply. Some of the challenges include high excavations costs to establish the generators and power plants below ground, underdeveloped technologies and high maintenance expenditures which will be addressed as the technology develops. Also, such plants established in remote locations may face logistical problems during construction. Moreover, feasibility of an underground site has to be assessed in terms of water flow and reservoir volume which requires thorough seismic surveys and water table analysis, thereby incurring further costs. However, the opportunities for such plants are increasing by the day. With smart grid implementations, such underground hydro power projects connected to the grid may help enhance grid stability through injection of surplus power, earning money in the process.
The primary segmentation of underground hydro power projects can be done on the basis of connectivity. It can be segmented as either grid connected or stand alone. End use segmentation can be done as residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural. Segmentation on the basis of types is done as: Run of River, Canal-based and Reservoir-based. Further segmentation can be done on the basis of turbines being used in the power projects, such as Pelton, Kaplan & Francis.
North America is the world’s largest market in terms of installed capacity of underground hydro power for which Canada is the leader in the overall installed capacity. The U.S. has also emerged to be another key market owing to the growing electricity needs and large availability of natural underground water sources. In the Asia Pacific, countries like India, China, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Philippines also show substantial underground hydro project development. There is huge potential for exploiting this source of clean power in South America as well, especially in countries like Brazil, Peru, Argentina and Colombia. Large untapped hydro potential is also available in Africa especially in eastern and southern Africa, specifically Nigeria and Ghana.
Some of the key players in the underground hydro power plant installation business include: Meridian Energy, Tokyo Electric and Power Company (TEPCO), Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation Limited, Nalcor Energy and AECOM Technology Corporation.
This research report analyzes this market on the basis of its market segments, major geographies, and current market trends. Geographies analyzed under this research report include
- North America
- Asia Pacific
- Rest of the World
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