PSR: HERA – a hydro power development optimization model with social and environmental responsibility


  • HERA is a computational model developed by for the development of hydro power with consideration for project economic feasibility, social and environmental impacts.
  • The objective of this tool is to contribute to the stakeholder decision process, which is complex as it usually involves conflicting interests, pro and against the construction of dams, trying to balance energy production with conservation.
  • HERA simulates the actual construction of the power plants, including reservoir flooded areas. It designs structures following engineering guidelines of Eletrobras (different types dams, spillways, powerhouses, canals, diversion schemes, tunnels, etc.) and calculates corresponding costs (concrete, soil and rock excavation, etc.). Calculations are made for each dam location, considering a digital terrain model. HERA then adds electromechanical costs associated to the capacity of the candidate project and the socioenvironmental costs, which include costs of flooded areas, vegetation removal, environmental compensations, infrastructure cost (such as length of flooded roads, bridges, etc.) as well as population displacement costs. All cost components are made for each candidate project and the process is repeated for various locations along the river, for different water heads (in each location) and with different possible engineering designs (combinations of suitable components). A large list of candidate projects is then prepared from which the best combination is selected from with the aid of an optimization model. This mathematical model includes physical related constraints, such as water balance equations, and operational limits as well as environmental constraints related to the impacts of the projects, such as the use of the Blueprint for Conservation methodology from The Nature Conservancy.

What is the impact of your case:

  • HERA has been used by PSR and The Nature Conservancy in river basins in Colombia (Magdalena river), Gabon (Komo, Abanga), Brazil (Juruena, Ivaí) and Mexico (Coatzacoalcos). In Brazil the electricity regulatory agency (ANEEL) is interested to promote its use in “inclusive” inventory studies, where environmental bodies, public prosecutors, mayors, governmental institutions, project developers, indigenous groups, and others can use the tool as part of the stakeholder process. The idea is to enable an objective evaluation of the alternatives, provide transparency in the process and agility: a process that would historically be executed in several months can be reproduced in a few hours with HERA, thus enabling a “live” exploration of the alternatives.

How is your case innovative:

There are several innovation aspects.

1.Automation of geoprocessing functions oriented to hydropower development (calculation of hydraulic network, future reservoir considering head x wet area x storage curves, automatic regionalization of historic flows from gauging stations to candidate project location and many more.

2.Calculation of user-defined metrics based on general shapefiles, which can be used to estimate the impacts of each project individually or the combination of projects.

3.Automation of project conception, including engineering design and cost estimation

4.Possibility for engineer to edit or modify engineering guideline: a dictionary of inputs and output variables is used for this matter, but the guidelines (eg. spillway calculation or others) may be edited in Excel, as desired. The resulting new computation procedure is then “compiled” to run in a Python code, which is the embedded into Hera’s model.

5.Massive distributed computation is used for large scale river basins, with as many as 10,000 candidate projects being designed and budgeted.

6.A mathematical formulation that selects the best combination of projects within the river basin (in the sense that it maximizes the objective function value)

7.Exports of results to other GIS software, to Google Earth and others.

8.Integration with Revit for 3D Visualization of structures

9.Coding in Dynamo to “build” a 3D model of the hydropower plant from the individual components considering local surface (Digital Terrain Model) from NASA or others.

10.Advanced artistic visualization of selected hydro power projects in Infraworks 3D Visualization.