In recent years, underground hydropower power generation has gained increased significance as a potential alternative in managing inexpensive electricity production in off-grid regions. Characterized by a low environmental impact, these underground hydropower projects are usually less capital-intensive to construct and operate. Hence they are developed on a medium-to-large scale and are widely used in flat regions to power industrial plants and meeting the needs of small communities. The growing inclination of governments in several regions to provide electricity in remote areas and difficult, hilly terrain are also offering continuous impetus to the construction of underground hydropower plants.
Over the past few years, standalone underground hydropower plants are gaining traction by meeting the electricity needs of areas that are off-grid. As the concept of decentralized energy gathers steam, the generation of energy using underground hydropower plants has gained a boost. In some regions, innovative technologies enable the efficient generation of electricity with dam-operated hydroelectric plants.
The growing focus toward the generation of renewable energy generation has offered the needed push toward the construction of underground hydropower plants in various developing and developed regions. The construction and operation of underground hydropower plants offers several unique benefits such as relatively less time required by investors to recoup their investment, low cost of energy generation, and ability to adapt to varying supply requirements. In addition, the ease of regulatory requirements, ceding land availability, and heightened security against attacks and earth slips are some of the crucial factors boosting the underground hydropower plants market. However, the construction of hydropower plants bring several challenges for market players need to overcome for successful operation.
One of the key hindrances is logistical constraints, a problem aggravated by the presence of steep slopes and difficult terrain. The high cost of excavation and substantial spending required in making seismic surveys and for analysis of water tables are key factors likely to dissuade many to invest in underground hydro power plants. In addition, various feasibility studies pertaining to assessing groundwater exchanges and reservoir volumes may further complicate underground hydro power projects. Nevertheless, with advances in hydroelectric power generations technology, solutions to all of these challenges are likely to be found in the forthcoming years. The growing popularity of underground pumped storage hydropower and the concept of decentralized renewable energy generation gaining traction among energy producers are key factors expected to open up lucrative growth avenues for market players.
Underground Hydro Power Plant Market: Regional Outlook
North America is one of the leading markets attributed to the presence of large installed capacity of underground hydropower. The major contributor of the regional market growth is Canada possessing the highest installed capacity. The market in the U.S. is fast emerging driven by rapidly growing needs of electricity and the presence of large swathes of underground water resources.
On the other hand, Asia Pacific and Africa are expected to show impressive growth in the coming years. Countries such as China, India, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam exhibit significant potential for underground hydro project development. The presence of large untapped hydropower generation potential in Africa, particularly in Nigeria and Ghana, is anticipated to catalyze the regional market growth.