U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Water Power Program
Ongoing Drought in Northwest Threatens Hydropower Production
March 30, 2005
The Northwest experienced its third dry winter in a row this year,
leading the Bonneville Power Administration, regional utilities, and
public interest groups to call for Northwest consumers to
conserve energy. Barring unscheduled plant outages or other unforeseen
circumstances, the region's utilities expect to have enough electrical
generating capability to meet demand, but the hydropower shortage
could drive up electricity rates, the groups warned. See the BPA press release.
The six-bladed hydropower turbine as it was about to be lowered into place on the Wanapum Dam.
Credit: Grant County PUD
The low water conditions should provide an interesting test of a "fish
friendly" hydropower turbine, now producing power for the Grant County
Public Utility District (PUD) at the Wanapum Dam, on the Columbia
River in Washington State. The state-of-the-art turbine is designed to
increase the survival rate of migratory fish while increasing
efficiency and power output. The DOE-funded test is already showing
promise: In early February, testing showed a 14 percent increase in
power output and a 3 percent increase in efficiency. Fish passage data
are not available yet. See the Grant County PUD press release (PDF 109 KB). Download Acrobat Reader.
One company is working to bring new hydropower capacity to the
Northwest, through low-impact installations primarily located at
existing federal dams. Symbiotics, LLC was established in 2001 and has
filed 250 applications for preliminary hydropower permits with the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Of those, 22 projects are
currently active, and 4 have reached the stage of applying for a final
license. Those projects include a 10-megawatt installation near
Medford, Oregon; an 8.3-megawatt system east of Cottage Grove, Oregon;
a 6.8-megawatt system near Prineville, Oregon; and a 3.3-megawatt
system northeast of St. Anthony, Idaho. See the
Symbiotics Web site.