Hydropower Industry Wants More Funding

Congress should increase funding for advanced hydropower turbines that would boost generation capacity in the United States, while simultaneously giving more protection to migrating fish.

WASHINGTON, DC, US, 2001-06-07 [SolarAccess.com] The National Hydropower Association wants congressional appropriators to fund research and development programs to the levels recommended in 1997 by the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science & Technonlogy (PCAST). Research funding for hydropower was recently restored to $5 million through an amendment offered by the Office of Management & Budget, after suffering a 50 percent decline in the initial funding request from the administration of President George Bush. Eleven million dollars is needed to “allow us to soon deploy new technology that will benefit hydro producers, the environment and the American consumer – a goal everyone should support,” explains the NHA. Current research focuses on modifications to existing hydro turbines that can increase generation capacity, while also designing a new design that will allow 98 percent or more of fish to pass through the turbine. Current turbines catch between 5 and 15 percent of the fish that go through the blades. Modified turbines with fish-friendly features have been tested at dams along the Columbia River with impressive results, and a new design will be tested under laboratory conditions this fall. More testing is needed, but early indications show that modified turbines decrease fish mortality by 50 percent, while providing more energy using the same amount of water. Current funding under federal programs allows only one effort to move forward at a time, and increased funding would allow both efforts to progress simultaneously and cover increased costs as research moves from laboratory tests to field demonstrations. NHA initiated the cost share program in 1994. Despite the recommendations of PCAST, the association says the program has never been fully funded and has always represented a tiny share of the total U.S. budget for renewable energy and energy efficiency.