Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

A New Application of Flow Duration Curve (FDC) in Designing Run-of-River Power Plants

  • 654 Accesses

  • 18 Citations


The present study evaluates the effects of river run-off regime and hydrological uncertainty on the hydroelectric production of a run-of-river power plant. The mean annual energy from a plant was modeled as a function of run-off regime and design flow, by means of a procedure developed on the mean annual Flow Duration Curves (FDCs) of 15 sample basins in the Umbria Region (Central Italy). Results show that energy output decreases from constant to torrential regimes, following a potential function, and that, the greater the design flow, the greater the rate of decrease. The treatment and validation of these results provided a useful tool for easy identification of optimal design flow, according to the hydrological features of the basin and the target hydroelectric production at the station. Analyses of FDCs with a 20-year return period also showed that the decrease in energy production in dry years and its increase in wet years, compared with the mean annual value, are linearly linked to the design flow. In the present context of possible climate change, this result is presented as the possibility of partially controlling the effects of positive or negative flow rate trends. The results reported here can be applied to any kind of river and hydraulic technology at the power station.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5


  1. Bailey T, Bass R (2009) Hydroelectric feasibility study. An assessment of the feasibility of generating electric power using urban storm water in Oregon City. Oregon Institute of Technology Renewable Energy Engineering, OIT-REE-001. http://www.oit.edu/libraries/portland_osp/oc_hydro_study_report_r1.pdf Accessed 25 February 2013

  2. Barelli L, Liucci L, Ottaviano A, Valigi D (2013) Mini-hydro: a design approach in case of torrential rivers. Energy 58:695–706. doi:10.1016/j.energy.2013.06.038

  3. BHA (2012) A guide to UK mini-hydro developments v3.0. http://www.british-hydro.org/Useful_Information/A%20Guide%20to%20UK%20mini-hydro%20development%20v3.pdf Accessed 13 December 2013

  4. Bonta JV, Cleland B (2003) Incorporating natural variability, uncertainty, and risk into water quality evaluations using duration curves. J Am Water Resour Assoc 2003:1481–1496

  5. Chang J, Bai T, Huang Q, Yang D (2013) Optimization of water resources utilization by PSO-GA. Water Resour Manage 27:3525–3540. doi:10.1007/s11269-013-0362-8

  6. Claps P, Fiorentino M (1997) Probabilistic flow duration curves for use in environmental planning and management. In: Harmancioglu et al. (eds.) Integrated approach to environmental data management systems, NATO-ASI series 2(31):255–266, Kluwer, Dordrecht, Netherlands

  7. Cole RAJ, Johnston HT, Robinson DJ (2003) The use of flow duration curves as a data quality tool. Hydrol Sci J 48(6):939–951

  8. Copestake P, Young AR (2008) How much water can a river give? Uncertainty and the flow duration curve. BHS 10th National Hydrology Symposium, Exeter, pp 59–66

  9. Di Matteo L, Dragoni W (2005) Empirical relationships for estimating stream depletion by a well pumping near a gaining stream. Groundw 3(2):242–249

  10. Di Matteo L, Valigi D, Cambi C (2013) Climatic characterization and response of water resources to climate change in limestone areas: some considerations on the importance of geological setting. J Hydrol Eng 18(7):773–779

  11. Dragoni W, Sukhija BS (2008) Climate change and groundwater: a short review. In: Dragoni W, Sukhija B S (eds.) The Geological Society Publishing House, Climate Change and Groundwater, Geological Society Special Publication, London 288:1–12

  12. ESHA (2004) Electromechanical equipment. In: Guide on How to Develop a Small Hydropower Plant, pp 153–198. http://www.esha.be/fileadmin/esha_files/documents/publications/GUIDES/GUIDE_SHP/GUIDE_SHP_EN.pdf. Accessed 27 February 2013

  13. Fang Y, Wang M, Deng W, Xu K (2010) Exploitation scale of hydropower based on instream flow requirements: a case from southwest China. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 14:2290–2297

  14. Gustard A, Bullock A, Dixon JM (1992) Low flow estimation in the United Kingdom. Institute of Hydrology, Wallingford, IH report no.108

  15. Hänggi P, Weingartner R (2012) Variations in discharge volumes for hydropower generation in Switzerland. Water Resour Manage 26:1231–1252. doi:10.1007/s11269-011-9956-1

  16. IPCC (2012) Managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation. A special report of working groups I and II of the intergovernmental panel on climate change [Field, CB, Barros V, Stocker TF, Qin D, Dokken DJ, Ebi KL, Mastrandrea MD, Mach KJ, Plattner G-K, Allen SK, Tignor M, and Midgley PM (eds.)], Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, and New York, NY, USA, 582pp

  17. IRENA (2012) Renewable energy technologies: Cost analysis series. Irena Working Paper, 1: power Sector, Issue 3/5

  18. Jalilov S-M, Amer SA, Ward FA (2013) Water, food and energy security: an elusive search for balance in Central Asia. Water Resour Manage 27:3959–3979. doi:10.1007/s11269-013-0390-4

  19. Kumar A, Schei TA, Ahenkorah R, Caceres Rodriguez JM, Devernay M, Freitas D, Hall Å, Killingtveit ZL (2011) Hydropower. In: Edenhofer O, Pichs-Madruga R, Sokona Y, Seyboth K, Matschoss P, Kadner S, Zwickel T, Eickemeier P, Hansen G, Schlömer S, von Stechow C (eds) IPCC Special report on renewable energy sources and climate change mitigation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York

  20. Lane PNJ, Best AE, Hickel K, Zhang L (2005) The response of flow duration curves to afforestation. J Hydrol 310:253–265

  21. Liucci L, Casadei S, Vacca G, Valigi D (2013) Hydrological study of some rivers in the Umbria Region and small scale hydropower applications. Rend Online Soc Geol Ital 24:193–195

  22. Masters GM (2004) Renewable and efficient electric power systems. Wiley, Hoboken

  23. Minville M, Brissette F, Krau S, Leconte R (2009) Adaptation to climate change in the management of a Canadian water-resources system exploited for hydropower. Water Resour Manage 23:2965–2986. doi:10.1007/s11269-009-9418-1

  24. Morrison MA, Bonta JV (2008) Development of duration-curve based methods for quantifying variability and change in watershed hydrology and water, Quality. EPA/600/R-08/065

  25. MRC (2009) Basin development plan programme, phase 2. Hydropower sector review for the joint basin planning process. PDR, Vientiane

  26. Niadas IA, Mentzelopoulos PG (2008) Probabilistic flow duration curves for small hydro plant design and performance evaluation. Water Resour Manage 22:509–523

  27. NRCan (2003) Clean energy project analysis: RETScreen® engineering & cases textbook—small hydro project analysis chapter, pp 52, Catalogue M39–98/2003E-PDF

  28. Preziosi E, Del Bon A, Romano E, Petrangeli AB, Casadei S (2013) Vulnerability to drough of a complex water supply system. The upper Tiber basin case study (Central Italy). Water Resour Manage 27:4655–4678. doi:10.1007/s11269-013-0434-9

  29. Ramos HE, Almeida AB (1999) Small hydropower schemes as an important renewable energy source. Publicação com Referee Internacional. Hidroenergia 99, Vienna, Austria, 11–13 October, 1999

  30. Renewable Energy Research Laboratory (2006) Capacity factor, intermittency, and what happens when the wind doesn’t blow? University of Massachusetts Amherst, US http://www.umass.edu/windenergy/publications/published/communityWindFactSheets/RERL_Fact_Sheet_2a_Capacity_Factor.pdf Accessed 27 February 2013

  31. Rojanamon P, Chaisomphob T, Bureekul T (2009) Application of geographical information system to site selection of small run-of-river hydropower project by considering engineering/economic/environmental criteria and social impact. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 13:2336–2348

  32. Santolin A, Cavazzini G, Pavesi G, Ardizzon G, Rossetti A (2011) Techno-economical method for the capacity sizing of a small hydropower plant. Energy Convers Manage 52:2533–2541

  33. Singal SK, Saini RP, Raghuvanshi CS (2010) Analysis for cost estimation of low head run-of-river small hydropower schemes. Energy Sustain Dev 14:117–126

  34. Smakhtin VU (2001) Low flow hydrology: a review. J Hydrol 240:147–186

  35. Uhunmwangho R, Okedu EK (2009) Small hydropower for sustainable development. Pacific J Sci Technol 10(2):535–543

  36. Vogel RM, Fennessey NM (1994) Flow duration curves. I: new interpretation and confidence intervals. J Water Resour Plan Manage, ASCE 120:485–504

  37. Vogel RM, Fennessey NM (1995) Flow duration curves. II: a review of applications in water resources planning. Water Resour Bull 31(6):1029–1039

  38. Watkin LJ, Kemp PS, Williams ID, Harwood IA (2012) Managing sustainable development conflicts: the impact of stakeholders in small-scale hydropower schemes. Environ Manage 49:1208–1223

  39. Wilson JL (1993) Induced infiltration in aquifers with ambient flow. Water Resour Res 29(10):3503–3512

Download references


The authors would like to thank the Regione Umbria—Idrografico Regionale for providing the daily flow data.

Author information

Correspondence to Daniela Valigi.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Liucci, L., Valigi, D. & Casadei, S. A New Application of Flow Duration Curve (FDC) in Designing Run-of-River Power Plants. Water Resour Manage 28, 881–895 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11269-014-0523-4

Download citation


  • Capacity factor
  • Design flow
  • Flow duration curve
  • Hydrological uncertainty
  • Hydropower
  • Run-off regime