DOE seeks input on hydropower development in undeveloped stream-reaches

The Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will issue in the Nov. 9 Federal Register a request for information (RFI) seeking public input regarding challenges and opportunities associated with hydropower development in undeveloped stream-reaches.

Through this RFI, the WPTO is also seeking input on the focus and structure of a potential funding opportunity to support research and development of advanced and/or nontraditional transformative hydropower technologies and project designs capable of avoiding or minimizing environmental and social effects of new cost-competitive hydropower development in undeveloped stream-reaches. Responses must be received no later than 5:00 pm (ET) on Dec. 16, 2016.

Through its HydroNEXT initiative, WPTO’s Hydropower Program invests in the development of innovative technologies that lower cost, improve performance, and promote environmental stewardship of hydropower development across three resource classes:

  • Existing non-powered dams (NPD)
  • Pumped storage hydropower (PSH)
  • New stream-reach development (NSD)

Under a Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Funding Opportunity Announcement titled, “Innovative Technologies to Advance Non-Powered Dam and Pumped Storage Hydropower Development,” the program made federal funding available to research and develop innovative solutions for NPD and PSH development. In FY 2017, the program seeks to overcome challenges associated with furthering the development of hydropower in new stream-reaches.

Development of hydropower in new stream-reaches refers to new projects in stream segments and waterways that do not currently have hydroelectric facilities. New stream-reach development projects are subject to more scrutiny than projects for other hydropower resources (i.e. NPDs, refurbishments) because such development can have more extensive environmental and social effects, particularly if construction of a dam or diversion is required. Construction of barriers in a natural waterway can affect fish migration, channel geomorphology, sediment transport, habitat connectivity, water quality, and flow regimes. The unique nature of new stream-reach development can also add cost, time, and uncertainty to the development process. These factors have hindered the development of this resource in recent decades.

The ageny is seeking answers on questions like:

  • How can advances in technology more readily address environmental challenges associated with hydropower development in undeveloped streams?
  • What are the technical challenges associated with new stream-reach development? How can DOE help address these challenges?
  • How can modularization of power train and civil works components affect project costs? How can standardized equipment build familiarity and assist with regulatory review of proposed new stream-reach development projects?
  • With recent advancements in additive manufacturing, it has become increasingly easy to embed sensors and other smart technology into equipment. How can this advancement be used to build smarter machines and change the way stakeholders address environmental concerns?
  • What other challenges is the hydropower community facing with regards to new stream-reach development? How can DOE help to address those challenges?
About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.