08 Jan 2024
 | 08 Jan 2024

Modeling hydropower operations at the scale of a power grid: a demand-based approach

Laure Baratgin, Jan Polcher, Patrice Dumas, and Philippe Quirion

Abstract. Climate change and evolving water management practices may have a profound impact on hydropower generation. While hydrological models have been widely used to assess these effects, they often present some limitations. A major challenge lies in the modeling of release decisions for hydropower reservoirs, which result from intricate trade-offs, involving power sector dispatch, competing water uses and the spatial allocation of power generation within the grid.

To address this gap, this study introduces a novel demand-based approach for integrating hydropower within the routing module of land surface models. First, hydropower infrastructures are placed in coherence with the hydrological network and links are built between hydropower plants and their supplying reservoirs to explicitly represent water transfers built for hydropower generation. Then, coordinated dam operation is simulated by distributing a prescribed electric demand to be satisfied by hydropower over the different power plants on the power grid, while considering the operational constraints associated with the multipurpose nature of most dams.

To validate our approach, this framework is implemented within the water transport scheme of a land surface model and assessed with the case study of the French electrical system. We drive the model with a high-resolution atmospheric reanalysis and prescribe the observed national hydropower production as the total power demand to be met by hydropower infrastructures. By comparing the simulated evolution of the stock in reservoirs to the observations, we find that the model simulates realistic operations of reservoirs and successfully satisfies hydropower production demands over the entire period. We highlight the roles of uncertainties in estimated precipitation and of the limited knowledge of hydropower networks on the estimation of production. Finally, we show that such an integration of hydropower operations in the model improves the simulations of river discharges in mountainous catchments affected by hydropower.

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Laure Baratgin, Jan Polcher, Patrice Dumas, and Philippe Quirion

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-3106', Anonymous Referee #1, 16 Feb 2024
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-3106', Anonymous Referee #2, 05 May 2024
Laure Baratgin, Jan Polcher, Patrice Dumas, and Philippe Quirion
Laure Baratgin, Jan Polcher, Patrice Dumas, and Philippe Quirion


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Short summary
Hydrological modeling is valuable for estimating the possible impacts of climate change on hydropower generation. In this study, we present a more comprehensive approach to model the management of hydroelectric reservoirs. The total power-grid demand is distributed to the various power plants according to their reservoir states to compute their release. The method is tested on France, and demonstrates that it succeeds in reproducing the observed behavior of reservoirs.