Traditional hydropower systems – while providing clean, effective and well-tested renewable power options – are projects with long timelines and high initial civil infrastructure costs, and they must be designed carefully to mitigate detrimental environmental impacts. This limits hydropower to locations where enough power can be generated across enough time to justify the cost and ecological risk. Littoral Power Systems (LPS), working under a research grant funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), invited GZA to be their partner in developing a new and innovative approach to hydropower.


Working from the client’s initial concept, GZA and the LPS team designed a modular hydropower system modeled on the ISO standards for shipping containers. The open-frame design can easily be transported, installed, and removed, in comparison to other hydroelectric projects. A post-tension tie-down anchor system provides global structural stability. The modular design allows for smaller, cheaper projects and lower-impact hydropower for sites not previously judged viable for hydropower development.


The team’s design will allow for quick construction as needed, at different sizes, scaling power output to project need and opening more waterways to hydropower development. The “shipping container” form factor reduces costs, minimizes environmental impacts, and simplifies logistics, eliminating the need for large on-site construction effort. Standard dam, turbine, and spillway modules can be configured as needed to accommodate site-specific geometry and hydrology.