Space meets hydro energy: a study report by ESA CG

Humanity’s oldest source of renewable energy currently plays a pivotal role in the energy supply of over 160 countries worldwide. With 4,252 TWh generated in 2022, hydropower makes the largest contribution to total renewable electricity generation (37%), coming right after coal and natural gas. Nonetheless, its growth rate has been relatively slow in comparison to solar and wind energy largely due to environmental and social impacts, complex permit acquisition processes and long construction times.

Europe is a leading force in the development, innovation and export of hydropower. In 2021, hydropower installed capacity amounted to 255 GW, representing around one-fifth of the world’s hydro capacity, and 44 GW of this total consisted of PHS. Hydropower also accounted for 32% of the European Union’s renewable electricity production and provided 12% of the EU’s electricity.

Our report highlights the key areas where space tech can make a difference:

  1. Location scouting: identify optimal sites for large and small-scale hydropower plants, considering energy generation potential and minimal environmental impact.
  2. Improved forecasting: leverage Earth Observation data to enhance hydrological modelling, water resource assessments, and snow-related insights for better prediction.
  3. Bankability: accurate forecasting improves investment opportunities, for increased funding in hydropower projects.
  4. Climate change and infrastructure monitoring: utilise satellite imagery, drones, and radar data to monitor dam safety, detect potential issues, and assess hydro-meteorological risks.
  5. Environmental and social impact: employ satellite data to analyse biodiversity, manage sedimentation levels, and ensure compliance with sustainability standards.

Find out more on the added value of space and ESA’s support programmes in the latest mini report.

Download the full reportArticle Courtesy of ESA COMMERCIALISATION GATEWAY