Speak to our team
Close this search box.

Hydro Power

Hydro power is a dependable power generation method with plants typically only requiring very long intervals between major inspections. The size of a hydro plant can vary from a few kW up to 1,000 MW per unit and there are three main types of design:

Each design is robust and due to the relatively low rotational speeds of 80 to a few hundred rpm, the stresses can be low.  This results in a long service life with some hydro plants operating successfully for close to a  hundred years.

These three main systems have been around for centuries, but two newer technologies are emerging:

Although these are innovative concepts, the technology within each machine is standard, consisting of turbines, hydraulics, and generators, all of which Hawkins has full expertise in.


Hawkins forensic investigators have completed numerous investigation into hydro power plant failures.

Major inspection intervals can be long, typically 25 years, so a station engineer may be involved in at most, two major inspections in their career depending on the number of units at the facility. Our experts are familiar with the different components of each type of plant and have the experience to complete an assessment that the operating team may not have. 

Problems are often a result of ingestion of debris which causes impact damage. Issues can also arise due to the age of the units. During inspection, several defects may be identified which a repair shop may try to repair.  

Hawkins has found that many of these are casting defects and can be related to original manufacturer defects which have not propagated and are therefore dormant. In some cases, the defect can be tolerated and undertaking a repair can generate further cracking due to the age of the components and the materials not being as clean as modern-grade steels. 

Having an experienced investigator on the team can reduce the risk of repair vendors rushing into repairs that are not required.

Hydro-Electric Power Station Turbine Hall

Examples of Typical cases

The list below provides a few examples of the types of incidents we regularly investigate or have experience with:

If you would like to discuss how we can assist you please fill out our enquiry form or call us for a free consultation. 


When Hawkins is requested to investigate an issue we employ in-house methodology built from over 40 years of experience. This enables all Hawkins investigators to provide a consistency of service and product. The methodology comprises three steps:



On receipt of the enquiry, we discuss with the instructing party what happened, when it happened and request a suite of data covering the operation and maintenance of the asset during its operating life. This collected data may include video coverage showing the operating conditions present in the plant prior to, and during the event. We also interview personnel who were present at the time of the event to get an insight into the timeline of events before, during and after the event.



Following collection of all the data and completion of the consultation, Hawkins engineers will visit the site or repair shop to inspect the asset. This will enable us to assess the extent of the damage and identify the source of the failure. This step can be completed on-site or may require samples to be removed and examined in one of  Hawkins’ laboratories.



On completion of the inspection, a detailed report will be issued summarising the work completed and the findings of the investigationThis can include advice on operational and inspection changes to implement to minimise future events if relevant.


“Thank you for your superb effort in this case.”

Rhys Phillips


“Many thanks for turning out today at such short notice and providing the benefit of your expertise and knowledge. It was evident the Client was extremely relieved that this matter was being investigated expeditiously.”

Chaz Winterton

Crawford & Company

“I just wanted to say thank you for all your help and the information you found was of real insight. Thank you again for all your help.”

Stewart Hargreaves

William Strikes Ltd

“I just wanted to say thank you for all of your hard work preparing the Hawkins report. Please pass on my thanks to the rest of the team. We really appreciate the hours you have all put in and I know the client is pleased with your work.”

Philippa Jones

Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP

Related areas of expertise

Power & Energy

Hawkins' power experts have experience of forensically investigating losses worldwide on a wide range of power generation equipment from traditional thermal and nuclear power plants through to wind, hydro and solar generation as well as emerging technologies such as battery and flywheel installations.

Drains, Sewers & Septic Tanks

Few of us like to think too much about how wastewater or surface water run-off from their home, workplace or business gets to a place of treatment and/or safe disposal to the environment. But, when the infrastructure that either transports or treats this water fails, the resultant problems can be unpleasant, costly to rectify and damaging to the environment.

Flooding & Hydrology

Flooding is the most significant disaster risk in the UK. Flooding is estimated to cost the economy about £1 billion per year. More frequent, more intense storms resulting from climate change, and inappropriate developments in floodplains will put more people and property at risk in the future and will increase the impact of flooding. It is projected that the annual cost of flooding could be up to four times higher by the end of the century.

Chemical & Process Engineering

Chemical Engineering and Process Engineering are essentially interchangeable terms, whether it is engineering chemistry to make a desired product on the industrial scale for example a pharmaceutical drug or a beer or simply process materials for some beneficial purpose for example in water treatment or renewable power generation.

Related Insights

The subject of high-speed balancing generator rotors can be contentious, and the practice varies across the world. In Europe, with relatively easy access to high-speed test facilities, the default position is generally to carry out the testing. However, in Southeast Asia, Africa and South America, where there are fewer (if any) facilities, a risk-based approach is taken more often; this approach does not include high-speed testing
The process of turning mechanical energy into electrical power is pretty fascinating. You may remember turning a magnet near a coil and seeing a light bulb illuminate at school? In practice, power generation in the real world is fairly similar; an electromagnet is spun by a turbine (through wind, water, steam or a combustion engine) and power is produced. In practice, this electro-magnet may be over 100 tonnes, spinning at 3000 times a minute within a stationary coil weighing hundreds of tonnes. The largest generators being manufactured at the moment are rated in excess of 1.5 GW (gigawatts, or billion watts – enough to power three million UK homes). Whether being driven by wind, water steam or gas turbines, all generators are made of the same parts.
The power generation market is complex and frequently changing. There is a wide variety of generating assets ranging from very traditional (steam turbines powered by burning coal), similar turbines powered by nuclear reactors, gas turbines that directly drive generators and may also provide their waste heat to boilers (to drive a steam turbine), reciprocating (piston) engines, hydro turbines, through to more recent (and immature) technologies such as wind turbines and solar (usually in the form of photovoltaics, known as ‘PV’ or ‘solar panels’).