GE Renewable Energy’s Hydro businesses and Cube Hydro Partners, LLC (Cube Hydro), a portfolio company of I Squared Capital, are joining forces to expand hydroelectric energy production across North America.
The partnership can offer real benefits for customers in the US. The hydroelectric market accounts for 43% of the nation’s renewable generation and has significant opportunities for future growth, including:
- Modernizing existing infrastructure through investment in new, innovative turbine and generator technologies that incorporate advances in material science. Such innovation can improve operating efficiency of Cube Hydro’s existing hydroelectric fleet, resulting in increased generation while reducing environmental impacts. The Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that the industry can achieve an eight to ten percent increase in generation by modernizing the current U.S. hydroelectric fleet.
- Growing the hydroelectric fleet and expanding the generation footprint through investment in new hydroelectric facilities or retrofit of an existing plant at existing dams. In the U.S. less than three percent of the over 80,000 dams currently generate electricity. Together we will investigate sites that are economically and technically feasible in this area.
- Developing new greenfield sites (i.e. in-stream, run-of-river, etc.). DOE has estimated that there is nearly 60 GW of opportunities at greenfield sites for new development. There are challenges – technical, environmental, etc. – to developing those sites, but the industry has the wherewithal to capture this opportunity responsibly.
Both partners are well suited to address these opportunities. Cube Hydro has proven expertise as an innovative owner, operator, and developer of hydroelectric power plants in North America, and GE Renewable Energy leverages 100+ years of experience, 25+% market share and global network, to offers unique hydro solutions based on project-specific, cutting-edge, and digital technologies to deliver the greatest value to customers.
One area the partners plan to focus on is providing digital solutions to make the hydropower fleet more efficient. Many hydro plants in the US still use analog control equipment. The partnership will offer such operators the ability the use GE’s digital hydro plant to modernize equipment, to improve reliability, upgrade controls to better monitor and manage facilities. The result: lower operating costs and improved generation output.
Cube Hydro Partners has already seen first-hand what these two companies can do working together. Cube Hydro will use GE’s innovative aerating turbine design technology to improve the performance of their North Carolina assets. Doing so will allow Cube Hydro to replace existing runners at their High Rock facility and improve the water quality in the Yadkin River watershed, while improving — the efficiency of the turbines.
And that’s just one example of the type of outcome this partnership can bring. The partnership is positioned to pursue opportunities ranging from new build projects, to working with companies to invest in modernizing facilities to increase operating efficiency and maximize generation.
For example, if a company wants to get more output from existing hydro assets, GE could propose technology solutions and Cube Hydro could suggest longer-term operating strategies to generate more value from the assets and provide investment capital for the proposed upgrades. The partnership could also offer customers financing options through GE’s Energy Financial Services arm. Every hydro project is unique, and the partners would tailor solutions for each customer. The common denominator would be the emphasis on offering customers innovative technology, operations and financial investment options to get more out of new and existing hydropower assets.
Both partners are bullish on the US hydro market overall. As the energy landscape changes over the coming decades with the growth of wind and solar power, hydropower will become an even bigger backbone for the energy system. Given hydropower’s intrinsic flexibility, it will play an important role in moving the US toward a cleaner energy future … both by maximizing clean-energy output from existing and new facilities as well as by enabling other renewable energy resources.
 EIA Report for Hydro Generation