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VIII Symposium of Specialists in Electrical Operations and Expansion Planning

May, 19-23, 2002, Brasilia, Brazil

Optimal Design and Cost/Benefit Analysis of Hydroelectric Power

Systems by Genetic Algorithms

Egill B. Hreinsson*, Jónas Elíasson*


Summary: Local optimization of individual hydro- Algorithms (GA) is used at each stage in the parameter
electric power plant parameters such as tunnel diameters design and optimization of each hydroelectric project.
or dam height is a standard feature in the design of Finally a case study is presented and discussed based
hydropower stations. Combining such local optimization on data from the Icelandic electrical power system for
problems into a global optimization process for a set or optimization of individual projects. Therefore, these
sequence of hydroelectric plants with traditional general tools and specific case studies should be
optimization techniques is an interesting and challenging important for the design and operation of hydro-
problem considering the potential of powerful modern dominated power systems in general.
computer hardware and software. It is, however, often a The stage wise computations were carried out using
formidable task and a problematic one, due to the often the HYDRA software developed at the University of
excessive computational burden and the associated Iceland.
complexity of the problem. Furthermore, global Keywords: Optimal design, sequencing, sizing,
optimization is often difficult due to factors such as the hydro-plants
dynamic behavior and nonlinearity of the objective
function as well as multiple local optima. Therefore I. INTRODUCTION
attempts have been made to solve this problem for each This paper deals with hydroelectric power system
hydro plant by efficient and modern methods such as expansion planning and optimal design of hydroelectric
those based on evolutionary computational techniques. plants.
In this paper this problem is developed by addressing It is well known that each hydroelectric plant is in
simultaneously a sequence of hydro-projects rather than general unique, due to local conditions. Therefore, the
a single project, and performing the global optimization solution philosophy and problem definition must and
simultaneously on all projects using both a proposed will depend on local characteristics and conditions
one-shot approach and iterative techniques, using prevailing at each location of the plant. Generally, each
Lagrange multipliers as economic signals between stages plant has a wide range of different design parameters,
in the expansion process, while the method of Genetic such as reservoir size and dimensions, dam height,
diameter of tunnels, penstocks, etc. Clearly the project
construction cost is a function of these parameters. The
* total cost, consisting of construction and operations cost
Faculty of Engineering, University of Iceland, Hjardarhagi 6,
107 Reykjavik, ICELAND; e-mail: and can be represented by the total discounted project cost

NPV (net present value) using an appropriate discount or where certain parameters describing marginal cost
interest rate. benefits are passed between stages of the process. One
Consider now the plant and system benefits, what such marginal cost quantity is the long-range marginal
they are and how they depend on plant parameters. cost (LRMC) of the FEPC. LRMC is an indication of
Individual hydro plants will have a number of factors future energy prices, see for instance [3] with the original
reflecting the output or benefit derived from the plant. definition of the use of LRMC in hydro planning. See
An obvious example of benefits is the firm energy also [2] for a closer definition of this important cost
production capability (to be called FEPC normally in concept.
GWh/year), which is the plant’s possibility for delivery The paper is arranged as follows. In Section II we
of firm energy, assuming a given time-distribution of describe the theoretical foundation for linking adjacent
water flow and power demand of the market that the plants in a sequence by marginal cost signals. In Section
plant serves. Another quantifiable benefit is the income III the iterative and one-shot optimization approach is
from actual energy produced by the plant and sold on the described. In section IV the optimization process for
market. Still another example of an obvious benefit is the individual plants, based on the application of Genetic
available instantaneous power or installed capacity Algorithms is described and finally in section V a case
(MW) to meet peak demand. Another quantifiable study involving optimization of individual plants based
benefit could include the spinning reserves the plant, the on marginal cost signals are presented and discussed and
produced reactive power, reactive power capacity, etc. the appropriate conclusions are drawn. Finally an
etc. All these potential benefits could depend on, and appendix describes the notation.
therefore be a function of, the previously mentioned
parameters (tunnel diameter, dam height etc.). II. THEORETICAL OPTIMIZATION FRAMEWORK
Therefore, both plant design parameters and Consider first a single project with a single benefit
quantifiable benefit factors are generally multi- measure, (for instance the FEPC) or installed capacity (in
dimensional quantities, although the benefits can in the [MW]). This could be the first project in a system
simplest case, be concentrated to be represented by the expansion process. The appendix describes the notation.
one dimensional benefits measure, such as the FEPC. As opposed to ref. [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], we do not here
The traditional approach in hydro plant design is assume a fixed energy sales price and optimization of the
addressing each plant, its design and the associated net present value of the profit. Instead, the objective
parameters by applying a particular optimization process function in the present formulation of this paper is a
to determine the optimal design of the plant. The selected design that gives a preselected marginal cost of a benefit
basis for optimization is a given price or marginal cost factor (energy), and finally leads to a LRMC for the
and each plant parameter is optimized with respect to this sequence of projects. However these two approaches are
marginal cost. In previous papers, therefore [3], [4], [5], basically equivalent. Therefore, the objective is to
[6], [7] the optimization of individual plants has been determine the minimum cost function, given a certain
carried out using the software HYDRA that utilizes benefit, or to minimize:
Genetic Algorithms assuming specific energy prices,
C = min Cd (u1 , u2 ,..., un ) [1]
which have formed the basis for the economical u1 , u2 ,..., un

feasibility and technical design of the hydroelectric plant subject to:

in question. x = E (u1 , u2 ,..., u n ) [2]
However, when a number of hydroelectric projects is
By introducing the Lagrange multiplier, we get
on the drawing board and plans are for constructing them
in a sequence, each of the plant has different parameters C ( x) = min {Cd (u1 ,..., un )
u1 ,..., un , λ
−λ ⋅ [ E (u1 ,..., un ) − x ]}
and the construction and the selection of certain
parameters in one station will and should influence the
optimal selection of similar parameters in other plants, in C(x) is the cost function for the project and
spite of the different timing of the plants. In this paper dC
=λ [4]
we develop this interaction concept towards a more dx
global optimization approach by considering the which is the marginal cost. From eq. [3]:
expansion process as a whole (multiple plants), where ∂C
interaction of parameters in a number of hydroelectric = 0 i = 1, 2,..., n [5]
stations is explicitly considered through marginal cost ∂ui
signals. In previous papers ([6], [7], [8]) a similar
methodology has been presented assuming the are the conditions for a stationary point, which leads
previously mentioned one dimensional representation of to:
system and individual plant benefits in the form of ∂Cd ∂E
capacity, x, or the FEPC. (Firm energy production =λ⋅ ; i = 1, 2,..., n [6]
∂ui ∂ui
capability) and assuming a simple cost capacity
relationship, C(x) depending on this benefit factor, x. ∂Cd
Eq. [6] states that the marginal cost, with
In this paper we go a step further by suggesting an ∂ui
iterative optimization process for a sequence of projects, respect to a parameter (for instance tunnel diameter

[$/m]), should equal the marginal price (λ, for instance

the cost per unit of installed capacity [$/MW] multiplied Pro- Pro- Pro- Pro-
:λ1 :λ2 : λ3 : : λΝ
∂E ject ject ject ject
by the marginal increase in the benefit measure, #1 #2 #3 #N
(such as marginal capacity per meter of tunnel width
[MW/m]). For an optimum, the marginal cost (λ) Figure 1. A one shot approach to optimization of a
according to eq. [6] must be the same for all design hydro project sequence
parameters. By introducing Lagrange multipliers, we once again
Next consider 2 projects, again with a single benefit get
measure, such as the FEPC. The objective is to find the
minimum total discounted cost: P ( x, y ) = min ∑ C1 + d 2C2
P = min {C1 (u1 ,..., un ) + d 2 C2 (v1 ,..., vm )} v1 , v2 ,..., vm  j =1
u1 ,u2 ,...,un ,
[7] [16]
u1 ,u2 ,...,un ,
v1 , v2 ,..., vm
−λ1 [ E1 + E2 − x ] − λ2 [ F1 + F2 − y ]}
subject to:
which leads to:
x = E1 (u1 , u 2 ,..., un ) + E2 (v1 , v2 ,..., vm ) [8]
∂C1 ∂E ∂F
By introducing Lagrange multipliers, again, we get: = λ1 ⋅ 1 + λ2 ⋅ 1 ; i = 1, 2,..., n [17]
∂ui ∂ui ∂ui
P( x) min {C1 + d 2 C2 − λ [ E1 + E2 − x ]} [9]
u1 , u2 ,..., un ,
v1 , v2 ,..., vm
∂C ∂E ∂F
which leads to: d 2 2 = λ1 ⋅ 2 + λ2 ⋅ 2 ; j = 1, 2,..., m [18]
∂C1 ∂E ∂v j ∂v j ∂v j
= λ ⋅ 1 ; i = 1, 2,..., n [10]
∂ui ∂ui
Similarly, the interpretation of eqs. [17] and [18]
would be that the long-range marginal costs with respect
∂C ∂E
d 2 2 = λ ⋅ 2 ; j = 1, 2,..., m [11] to the benefit factors (λ1 and λ2) should be discounted
∂v j ∂v j when converting them between the adjacent projects in
Furthermore, by combining the above equations: the expansion sequence. This is in accordance with the
∂C ∂C1 general results in ref. [2].
d2 2
∂v j ∂u i = 1, 2,..., n
∂v j ∂ui
The above theoretical considerations imply that
Eq. [12] can be interpreted similarly as eq. [6] optimization of simultaneous parameter design of several
namely that the ratio of marginal cost to marginal benefit hydroelectric projects could be performed by either a one
is constant for all project parameters for both projects. shot approach or an iterative process:
However, the discount factor, d2 distinguishes between 1. First the proposed one-shot approach would assume
project #1 and #2 (adjacent projects in the sequence) so a given future LRMC vector (λN), carried back in
that the marginal cost/benefit of project #2 should be time from any future projects beyond project #N.
discounted when comparing with the corresponding Figure 1 shows how a marginal cost vector of
marginal cost/benefit for project #1. In ref. [2], the Lagrange multipliers with respect to each benefit
condition for optimal size was derived, stating that the factors is carried once back in time (forward in the
“current marginal cost” (eq. [4]) should equal the long sequence) with the appropriate discounting from the
range marginal cost, discounted to the start up time of the last project to the first, thereby indicating, at each
current project. In addition the timing of projects and its stage, the optimal marginal cost (λ).
dependence of project size was explicitly analyzed 2. The proposed iterative process implies that the
assuming a linear demand function. Here, however it is marginal cost vector is alternatively carried back and
sufficient to note the conditions for optimum design and forth in time (λ and β) until a stable optimum is
how the discount factor influences this design (eq. [12]).
Finally consider 2 projects with 2 benefit measures,
such as (1) FEPC and (2) capacity in megawatts. The
objective is to determine (and minimize): : Pro-
:λ1 Pro-
:λ2 Pro-
: λ3 : Pro-
: λΝ
P = min {C1 (u1 ,..., un ) + ject ject ject ject
u1 ,u2 ,...,un , #1 #2 #3 #N
v1 , v2 ,..., vm [13]
+ d 2 C2 (v1 ,..., vm )} : :β1 :β2 : β3 : :βΝ
subject to:
x = E1 (u1 , u 2 ,..., un ) + E2 (v1 , v2 ,..., vm ) [14] Figure 2. An iterative approach to optimization of a
y = F1 (u1 , u 2 ,..., u n ) + F2 (v1 , v2 ,..., vm ) [15] hydro project sequence

29.000 H1 1. Dam
28.600 500
NPV [Mkr]

50/0,025 1
28.000 50/0,005
10/0,01 2. Pr.
27.400 Shaft D
1 6 11 16 21 26 31 36 41 46 51 56 61 66 71 76 81 86 91 96
Generation #
H2 L4 d4 H3
Figure 3. Development of solution for the different 3. Powerhouse 4. Tailrace Tunnel
parameters in Table 2
reached. Figure 2 shows this process, whereby the Figure 4. A simple hydropower plant [3],[4]
design is first carried out for the last project in plant. It does so using genetic algorithms, (GA)
sequence and marginal cost signals are passed belonging to the class of methods called evolutionary
between stages with the appropriate discounting. methods [1]. The GA method seeks out the optimum by
giving the vector {ui} in eqs. [1], [2], [7], etc, definite
In both cases, “local” optimization of the design of values, calculating Cd (eq. [1]) and comparing the results.
each hydro plant (each stage) is carried out using genetic This sounds as both impractical and time consuming, but
algorithms, as described in Section IV. In addition an the genetic algorithm seeks out the optimum and finds it
adjustment of a project sequence towards an optimal one, with astonishing speed [3], [5], [6] and [7]). Table 1
can also be accomplished by using the methods proposed shows an example of the results of such an optimization
in ref. [11], to be discussed further in Section V discussed in the case study in Section V. But for the
The Lagrange multipliers with respect to benefit benefit of the reader, some explanation of the method
factors are carried back (and forth) and discounted may be needed before the findings in Table 1 are
assuming timing of plants as affected by size or sequence discussed further.
and/or benefit factors. As discussed further in Section V, In order to explain the method we show a simple
both the size (benefit factors) and the sequence should be example of a global optimization of the power plant
reevaluated, based on the marginal cost vectors, as shown in Figure 4, ref. [3]. Eqs. [1] - [4] are derived by
discussed in ref. [2] in an attempt to reach a global direct mathematical analysis and solved. A special
optimum with respect to size, sequence and design approximation formula was built for the powerhouse and
parameters. other construction elements shown in Figure 4. The
mathematical solution is compared to the findings of the
IV. UTILIZATION OF GENETIC ALGORITHMS FOR HYDRA program in Table 2. The main result is the NPV
OPTIMIZING HYDROPLANT DESIGN of the investment, for different number of individuals P,
In this section the optimization of design parameters generations G and mutation probability µ. As one can
see, the NPV´s found by the GA correspond very well to
using genetic algorithms (GA) will be discussed. The
the theoretical results (bold face in Table 2). Meanwhile,
solution to the optimization problem for each project is
very difficult analytically due to the nonlinear a short explanation of the parameters P, G and µ is
constraints, as discussed in [7]. called for, according to the theory of GA.
Therefore the program HYDRA has been developed The computer stores {ui} vectors as P individual
to solve the global optimization problem for each hydro strings in the memory. Profit and costs are calculated for
all of them and the best performing (highest profit)
individuals selected, these are the “parents”. By special
Table 1 PREMLIMINARY OPTIMIZATION 1997 mixing of the elements of the best vectors, a new set of P
(Optimized dimensions are bold faced. individuals is formed, this set is a new generation the
60 BIKR ≅ 1 billion $ in 1997) “children”. Now the process is repeated G times. To
prevent the process to get stuck in a local maximum,
Description PPR1 PPR2 O1150 O∞
brand new children that are unrelated to the parents are
Reservoir level m.a.s.l. 664.5 668.5 665.1 667.6 formed randomly by mutation. The mutation probability
Headrace tunnel di. m 5.0 5.0 4.3 4.8 µ decides how often this happens. When the process
Pressure shaft dia. m 2.9 2.9 2.6 2.7 stops after G generations, the optimum should be found.
Power MW 213 239 211 233 The trick in this computation is to select P, G and µ
Energy GWh/a 1159 1300 1150 1278 so the optimum is truly found, without spending
Investment BIKR 21.16 22.91 19.92 21.96 excessive computer time by selecting P, G and µ too
Profit BIKR 10.90 13.44 12.28 13.86 high.
When the results of the optimization are compared
∆Profit/∆Investm. %/% 0/0 +23/+8 +13/-6 +27/+4
with the mathematical solution, it is obvious that the runs

where the P, G and µ parameters are optimally tuned optimization assumes infinite demand. The solution is
reach results very close to the true optimum [4]. however not far from the PPR2 arrangement.
The result of the conventional local optimization The global optimization O1150, leads to a 0,7 m
method is also calculated and it gives an optimum narrower headrace tunnel compared to the PPR. Local
diameter, D, of 4.5 m, which is a 0.5 m difference in the optimization, considering only variable cost of the
diameter between methods. headrace, leads to the same result as in the PPR (5 m).
The conclusion of example in Fig. 4 is that genetic The power capacity reduction due to increased head
algorithm is a suitable tool for finding the optimal plant losses, is compensated with a slightly larger reservoir
arrangement. (increased discharge).
The HYDRA software is a shell that contains The O∞ optimization results in a slightly smaller
program objects that calculate the cost and benefit headrace diameter compared to the PPR. In O1150, there
functions and NPV of all construction elements (ref. [6]). is a market restriction so this optimization seeks a
Points that have geographical coordinates connect them smaller tunnel. This example clearly demonstrates that
and these can be included in the optimization if HYDRA is an efficient tool to fine tune the design of the
necessary. Thus tunnel lengths and position of plant. In order to stress this point further there is Table 3.
powerhouses can be found, see e.g. the tailrace tunnel in The O∞ optimization results in Table 1 have a larger
Fig. 4 Experience shows that running times are in the energy output than in the PPR1. This is because, this
vicinity of 2-4 minutes for very complicated hydropower optimization assumes plant stage, which means no
plants, depending on the size of population and number market restrictions and no extra benefit for the system.
of generations. G = 2P seems to be a suitable rule and in The extra benefit is that interactions between Fljótsdalur
most cases P = 30 is enough. The suitable m is highly Power Plant and the existing power system produces
dependent upon P see Fig. 4. substantial extra energy (estimated 250 GWh/a firm
HYDRA has performed very well on very energy in the PPR) through better utilization of the water
complicated project planning tasks (ref. [6] and , [7]) The resources.
program can handle very complex development schemes The project investment is 6% lower in optimization
with a large number of parameters. O1150 compared to the PPR1, resulting in a 13% higher
In the beginning, all the objects in HYDRA use profit, which is a significant improvement. The
approximation formulas to calculate the cost and benefit optimization O∞ on the other hand leads to a 4% higher
functions (NPV) of their respective construction investment and a 27% higher profit. When it is kept in
elements. Today cost estimates based on quantities and mind that the PPR1 plans a future raising of the dam to
locally adjusted unit prices for concrete, dam fills, reservoir level 668,5 m.a.s.l. (Fljótsdalur Engineering
tunnel-driving etc. are used. This is discussed closer in Joint Venture 1991), the result of O∞ is very close to the
the next section. PPR2 version.
To find the profit, the benefit function E has to be In order to ensure the best possible result in the
calculated. This could be the expected power output of global optimization the cost estimation of the whole
the station. This calculation is performed for each scheme is completely revised. The old construction cost
individual in each generation. The calculation is finished functions are removed and replaced with new PP (Project
when a sufficient number of generations has been Planning Stage) cost functions, specially prepared by the
calculated and a stable maximum is found as indicated engineering consultants
by the horizontal part of the curves in Figure 3. Then we Now similar runs as for the Plant Stage are
have an optimal design of the power plant, as the result performed. The results are presented in Table 3.
of the calculation and a definite value for each {ui}, it The O1150 optimization leads to a similar arrange-
being the height of a dam, the diameter of a tunnel, etc. ments as the plant stage optimization. The O∞ however
shows significant changes. This is because the new cost
V. CASE STUDY AND CONCLUSIONS FOR USING GA TO formulas do not represent the true variation of the costs
This case study and examples are from [3]. Lets now Table 2 Mathematical solution (bold)
discuss the results in Table 1. compared to optimization results
The PPR1, PPR2,, O1150, and O∞ represent different P 50 50 50 50 50 20 20
schemes, but the actual constraints are beyond the scope G 100 100 100 100 100 200 200
of this paper. It is sufficient to note that the O1150 µ 0.001 0.005 0.01 0.025 0.05 0.025 0.05
optimization seeks a slightly higher dam (increased D 4,0 4.0 4.0 4.0 3.9 4.0 4.0 3.9
discharge to the plant) to compensate for increased
H1 543,0 543 543 543 543 543 543 543
power losses in narrower conduits. The O∞ optimization
results in a significantly higher dam compared to the H2 48,2 44 49 49 48 42 50 44
PPR1. The explanation is that in the project planning H3 44,9 39 46 46 45 37 46 39
report, the size of the power plant and the size of NPV 28594 28580 28594 28594 28590 28569 28593 28576
reservoir is selected on basis of a power market scenario dNPV - -14 0 0 -4 -25 -1 -18
at the expected construction time of the plant, but the

Table 3 - Tabulation of significant data and net profit of

the investment (optimized dimensions are bold faced).
60 BIKR ≅ 1 billion $
S3 Description PPR1 PPR2 O1150 O∞
S4 Reservoir level m.a.s.l. 664.5 668.5 665.1 669.6
S2 S Headrace tunnel dia. m 5.0 5.0 4.3 5.3
S1 Pressure shaft dia. m 2.9 2.9 2.6 2.8
Power MW 212 239 210 242
Demand curve Energy GWh/a 1159 1300 1149 1325
Time, years Investment BIKR 22.78 24.40 22.18 24.91
Profit BIKR 9.36 11.78 9.72 11.97
Figure 5. - One-Shot sequential arrangement ∆Profit/∆Investment %/% 0/0 +26/+7 +4/-3 +28/+9

except in a narrow region around the PPR1 values. would arrange our schemes in a sequential order for
Therefore the results of the O∞ optimization are hardly instance according to a the optimal sequencing methods
applicable. However a comparison of the columns O∞ in discussed in reference [11]. We would for instance get a
Tables 1 and 3, shows how important it is that the cost sequence that can be presented in Figure 5.
formulas in the optimization are accurate. It may The result is seen to be S1, S2, S4 and S3 in that
therefore be concluded that it is worth the effort to sequence. The preliminary commission times of the
improve the cost formulas in Hydra with formulas schemes can be found on the horizontal axis in Figure 5.
specially designed in order to improve the accuracy of It is a result of how many years of demand increase the
optimizations performed. previous schemes cover. Using the commission times the
The economical result is dominated by the overall individual discounts (di’s) and optimal plant parameters
increase in the construction cost, compared to the plant and design can be reevaluated and the process repeated
stage, which leads to a considerable decrease in the backwards with the marginal cost vectors (β) (See Figure
profit, probably meaning considerable decrease in the 2). The capacities will change somewhat and may change
profit margin of venture capital. This shows how the optimal commission times and the sequence. In
important it is that the cost calculations of individual cost Figure 6 we can see that the optimal sequence S1, S2, S4
items are for the same planning stage. This is particularly and S3 has changed to S1, S4, S2 and S3. Therefore the
true when a series, or sequence, of schemes is iteration back and forth in Figure 2 can and should result
considered. in an adjustment of the following quantities:
Consider finally how the above optimization process 1. Commissioning time for plant
using GA, for individual plants can be transferred to a 2. Individual plant parameters
sequence of plants using a one-shot or an iterative 3. Plant benefit factors, such as FEPC or MW
approach For instance, we can build 5 different hydro 4. Expansion sequence
plants (S1, S2, S3 and S4), and our market increases These quantities can be recalculated and so the
annually with q megawatts in a (almost) linear fashion. process of Figure 2 can be repeated until a final solution
In what order and with how many MW are we to is found. At this stage of development of the iterative
construct and commission the 5 schemes? Using the method, it is not possible to say if the process is always
previously discussed one shot process, we would stable, but plans for extension of the current research are
optimize all 5 plants for the same LRMC (λ) as the to test both the one shot and the iterative process
Lagrange multiplier but with the appropriate discount approach with the GA optimization and link it together
factor di depending on the timing of the plants. Then we successfully in a single process. The objective of such
research and expected benefits to this approach are as
Size adjustments 1. The marginal cost signals are derived from the
MW Time adjustments
demand expansion process as a whole and not from a myopic
S3 look at the present system conditions. Therefore it is
possible to compare individual projects to each other
in this respect and allocate resources in an optimal
S4 S Demand curve manner among projects. For instance by this
S1 method, installed capacity and reserve margin
should be constructed in the project or projects,
Sequence adjustments where conditions lead to it being least expensive.
2. The approach discussed in this paper allow for the
Time, years simultaneous coherent optimization of project
sequence, size, timing and plant parameters for
Figure 6. Arrangement after 1st iteration several projects.

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sequence is decomposed using specific marginal Tomasson H. & Bjarnason H.; A proposal to
cost signals (See Figures 1 and 2) that are passed exploit optimally the hydropower potential of
between stages. It is the opinion of these authors that Skagafjoerdur Iceland; Hydrovision '98, Reno,
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x, y Measures or factors, such as FEPC or megawatts, describing Vegas, Nevada, USA, July 7 – 9, 1999,
the benefit derived from hydroelectric plants in the sequence (Published by ASCE on a CD-ROM ISBN 0-
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Austria 18th-20th October, 1999
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approximately equal to 1 US $ as of 2002. (MIKR = Mkr =
Million IKR, BIKR = Billion IKR or 1000 MIKR)
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