People: Peggy Brookshier: Decades of Service to Hydro

Over more than three decades, Peggy Brookshier made significant contributions to the hydro industry through her positions with the U.S. Department of Energy. As she retires in 2010, colleagues share how she achieved optimum technical results for hydro during her tenure.

Peggy A. Brookshier worked for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Idaho Operations Office for 33 years before her retirement on April 1, 2010. During those decades, Brookshier made significant contributions to the hydroelectric industry in a variety of roles: managing the DOE Hydropower Loan Program, developing and implementing the Advanced Hydropower Turbine System program, serving on the Hydro Review editorial advisory board and the HydroVision and Waterpower conference steering committees, and administering DOE’s Work for Others Program.

Starting out in hydro

Brookshier has a bachelor’s of science degree in mechanical engineering from California State University – Fullerton. She began her career in 1977, working as an intern at the Idaho Operations Office for the Energy Research and Development Administration, which became the DOE in 1978. One of Brookshier’s rotations during this internship was with the newly formed Advanced Technologies division, which included hydro.

In 1978, Brookshier began managing the DOE Hydropower Loan Program. She maintained DOE’s national hydro database, which was one of the first attempts at coordinating information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on various existing and potential hydro projects. Several years later, as part of this work, Brookshier led a resource assessment for each state, which refined the initial database and added criteria for screening out sites that the state would consider off-limits. After this work was complete, she completed another resource assessment for potential smaller sites that were not captured by the initial resource assessment.

Lee H. Sheldon, P.E., a consultant, began working with Brookshier when he accepted a position with DOE’s Idaho Falls office in 1979. At that time, there were three personnel in what was called the Small Scale Hydro Program, which worked with projects with a capacity of 30 MW or less. Sheldon monitored construction of the small-scale hydro demonstration projects, Brookshier maintained the hydro database, and Dr. Michael McLatchy was in charge of research and development and the DOE newsletter.

The three also worked together on the Hydropower Loan Program. This program provided loans to eligible projects to complete feasibility studies or obtain a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license. The loans covered up to 90 percent of the estimated cost and could be forgiven under certain circumstances. Although there also was authorization for construction loans under this program, this legislation was rescinded before it could be implemented.

Supervising the Advanced Hydropower Turbine System program

From the mid-1980s until 2002, Brookshier was the technical program manager as well as the project manager for DOE’s Hydropower Program. In these positions, she was responsible for developing and issuing solicitations for research, development, and demonstration, as well as for developing and implementing the Advanced Hydropower Turbine System program.

Beginning around 1990, Brookshier and Ron Loose, the DOE headquarters office director for wind and hydropower, supported environmental mitigation studies of the three most common environmental issues facing hydropower: fish passage, instream flow releases, and water quality, says Glenn F. Cada, PhD. Brookshier provided technical direction to Cada, who is with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, one of several national laboratories that worked with DOE. The literature reviews and surveys carried out as part of this effort led to a deeper understanding of the extent to which environmental mitigation measured had been installed and monitored, Cada says.

The primary goal of the Advanced Hydropower Turbine System program, which was initiated by Loose in 1994, was to develop environmentally friendly hydroelectric turbines (i.e., turbines in which both power production and environmental benefits such as fish passage survival and dissolved oxygen concentrations are maximized). The idea for the program was developed during a meeting between Loose, Brookshier, and representatives from EPRI and the National Hydropower Association (NHA). Loose assigned Brookshier to develop, implement, and oversee the new program. In this role, Brookshier brought together a diverse group of engineers and biologists to accomplish research and development on turbine design and testing, computational modeling, instrumentation development, quantification of biological responses to stressors, and other engineering and environmental issues that constrained hydropower development. “Peggy established an extremely effective industry/government partnership to advice the program and to supplement the DOE funding,” Cada says.

Early in the development of the fish-friendly turbines, Brookshier determined that quantitative information was lacking on fish responses to turbine passage stresses, Cada says. She directed considerable program support toward biological studies aimed at providing this information, he says. Numerous biological reports and papers were published, which provided information to other turbine designers and biologists about the effects of turbines on fish.

The first phase of the program was completed in 1997 with the development of preliminary designs for environmentally friendly turbines. This research eventually led to the development of two types of fish-friendly turbines, one from Alden Research Laboratory and the other from Voith Hydro. A small prototype of the Alden turbine was tested with fish, in a lab facility that was cost-shared with DOE. Viewing ports and high-speed cameras were used to capture the effects of the turbine on the fish. The Voith turbine was tested at Grant County Public Utility District’s (PUD) 1,038-MW Wanapum plant. The tests were cost-shared between DOE and Grant County PUD.

“Peggy was very effective in directing and integrating the hydropower research and development activities of three DOE laboratories and working with other federal agencies and the industry. She had a talent for extracting the most from very limited resources,” says John V. Flynn. Flynn met Brookshier in 1981 when he joined DOE’s hydro program as her primary headquarters program contact. He continued to work closely with Brookshier until his retirement in April 2004.

Richard J. Hunt agrees Brookshier was an effective manager, saying “she was the best and easiest manager or program director to work for in my career.” Hunt began working with Brookshier as a consultant in 1988 and joined the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory in 2001. From that point until his retirement in 2005, Hunt worked with Brookshier on a daily basis. He says, “Peggy was able to organize the DOE hydro R&D program using the best talents of a number of research labs around the country. As a result of her uncanny ability to effectively direct technical assignments to the labs, she was able to achieve optimum technical results for the hydro program.” Brookshier also cooperated with other organizations supporting hydro-related research and development, such as EPRI and NHA, to minimize overlap and ensure the results would be of maximum benefit to all hydro industry segments, he says.

Dennis Dauble began working with Brookshier in 1994, leading the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) team that contributed research and development work to the Advanced Hydropower Turbine System program. Among other contributions, PNNL staff developed the original sensor fish device, an autonomous device developed for the DOE and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help researchers better understand the physical conditions fish experience during passage through hydroelectric turbines and dam bypasses, such as spillways. Development of this device led to some of the first in-turbine measurements of hydraulic forces such as pressure, velocity, and turbulence, Dauble says. Brookshier supported development of the sensor fish as a means to better understand and improve fish survival during dam passage, he says. “Peggy was a true leader of the program, effectively translating the needs of Congress and DOE headquarters so that talents from the national laboratories and industry could be applied to advancing the hydropower industry,” says Dauble, now retired himself. “I was truly honored to be one of ‘Peggy’s boys.'”

Peggy Brookshier inspected the 3-MW Kasidaya Creek hydroelectric project in southeastern Alaska in 2009 as part of her work with DOE’s Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability office.

Over the course of Brookshier’s work on the Advanced Hydropower Turbine System program, funding was a challenge. On at least two occasions during this period, DOE hydro research and development funding was $0 in the federal budget, Hunt says. Despite the fact that a federal program typically would die once zero funding occurred, Brookshier was able to keep the program together and proceed without a glitch once funds again became available, Hunt says. “Peggy was able to get the most out of the DOE hydro R&D program despite budget challenges because of her technical expertise, excellent long-range planning ability, efficient use of personnel and funds, and the highest level of integrity,” he says. “It was a blow to the hydro industry when the hydro program was taken from Peggy and sent to Washington.”

Cada agrees that Brookshier accomplished a great deal with limited resources. “There are probably few programs that have accomplished so much with such limited resources,” he says. “The Advanced Hydropower Turbine Program produced two turbines with demonstrated environmental benefits and a large body of supporting peer-reviewed publications and reports.” Brookshier had the reports and publications from the program uploaded to the DOE website, where they continue to influence researchers and hydropower developers around the world, Cada says. The esteem many in the hydro industry hold speaks volumes for Brookshier as a person and as a manager: “There are few program managers that have engendered the loyalty, trust, and affection Peggy does,” he says.

In the late 1990s, Brookshier also began performing work for the DOE headquarters office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. She was responsible for contracting with and monitoring several earmark projects in the state of Alaska. The projects included intertie projects, some of which linked hydro projects to locations where the power was needed, as well as diesel generator and hydro projects.

Brookshier’s later DOE career

Between 2002 and 2007, Brookshier was the Team Lead for the Science and Technology Team, which monitored Idaho National Laboratory’s (INL) non-nuclear research and development, including hydropower. In late 2005, she also became administrator of the Work for Others Program at DOE’s Idaho Operations Office. This involves the performance of work for non-DOE entities by the DOE or the use of DOE facilities that is not directly funded by DOE appropriations. One of the Work for Others projects involved using INL’s Hydropower Resource Assessment software to determine potential hydro sites in Brazil. Due to the increase in workload, Brookshier began focusing solely on the Work for Others program in 2007.

By 2009, she had taken the role of Team Lead for Technology Partnership. Technology Partnership included the Work for Others program, as well as Cooperative Research and Development Agreements, which involved INL performing research and development cooperatively with industrial partners. Technology Partnership had oversight of other technology transfer activities that belonged to the laboratory, such as copyrights, licenses, and patents.

Also, from 2002 to her retirement in 2010, Brookshier continued to perform work for the Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability office. One of the recent hydro projects Brookshier monitored under this program was 3-MW Kasidaya Creek in southeastern Alaska. She inspected this facility during construction and again when it was completed in 2009.

Going above and beyond

Despite a career that kept her very busy, Brookshier took the time to serve in a variety of ancillary roles with regard to hydro industry magazines and events.

She is a long-time member of the Hydro Review editorial advisory board.

In addition, she served on the steering committees for the Waterpower and HydroVision events. Brookshier started her work on Waterpower in 1987, serving on the technical program committee. At that time, the event was run by the federal government, with the American Society of Civil Engineers providing administrative support. When Loose retired in the mid-1990s, she took over his role on both the executive and steering committees for the Waterpower event. At the 1999 Waterpower event, held in Las Vegas, Brookshier was chair of the technical program committee, which was unusual because normally a representative from the sponsoring agency or company acted as chair of this committee.

In 2001, HCI Publications took over management of the Waterpower event. Brookshier continued in a leadership role, serving on the steering committee of the 2001 and 2003 editions of Waterpower.

In addition to Waterpower (held on the odd-numbered years), Brookshier offered suggestions and advice to HCI on the other industry event, HydroVision, held on the even-numbered years. She was a member of the HydroVision 2002 advisory committee.

Elizabeth Ingram is associate editor of Hydro Review.


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