In cross-border water supplement cooperation, the supplement water discharged from upstream hydropower stations is the key to improving downstream benefits, but will lead to upstream power generation loss, so the upstream hydropower stations have to be aware of how much water they can offer and how much power they will lose to make the water supplement cooperation more reasonable. Therefore, this study puts forward a model to calculate the upper limit flow of water supplement of cascade hydropower stations under firm power constraints and water level constraints and proposes a new optimization method called the “collaborative-independent” joint optimization method to calculate the power generation loss under water supplement constraints. The results show that the upper limit flow will increase with the increase of annual inflow, and the uncertainty of the distribution of inflow in the year will also affect the upper limit flow: the larger the proportion of non-flood season inflow, the higher the upper limit flow. In normal and wet years, delaying water supplement time can significantly increase the upper limit flow by about 5% per month. Additionally, the “collaborative-independent” joint optimization method newly proposed in this paper can significantly improve the local optimization problem compared to the traditional optimization method. The power generation loss increases with the increase of water supplement flow, and delaying water supplement time can significantly reduce the power generation loss. The results of this paper can provide essential data support for future water resources cooperation negotiations in the Lancang-Mekong river basin to promote efficient and orderly water resources cooperation in the basin.
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