R&D Forum

EPRI releases update of waterpower resource assessment

Nearly 40,000 MW of available hydropower potential in the U.S. could be developed by 2025, according to EPRI’s Assessment of Waterpower Potential and Development Needs: 2010 Update.

This report is a follow-up to EPRI’s 2007 effort to conduct a waterpower resource assessment. The objective was to determine the potential that waterpower technology could contribute toward meeting U.S. energy needs. For the assessment, EPRI defined waterpower as including generation from conventional hydro facilities (including pumped storage), as well as emerging technologies that access the potential of river, tidal, ocean, and constructed waterway currents and of ocean waves and thermal gradients. The year 2025 was chosen as the goal of this assessment because it provides a long enough time frame for proposed research, incentive, and regulatory changes to affect decisions and produce a measurable amount of generation.

The overall U.S. resource potential is estimated to range from 85,000 to 95,000 MW, not including pumped storage, hydrokinetics, and ocean energy. EPRI’s prediction of development of 40,000 MW is a 74 percent increase over the 2007 number of 23,000 MW.

The 40,000 MW estimate includes:

– Conventional hydro, 13,750 MW;

– Pumped storage, 10,000 MW;

– Hydrokinetic technologies in rivers and man-made channels, 3,000 MW; and

– Tidal and ocean wave, 13,000 MW.

EPRI says achievement of this potential could be accomplished through:

– Funding the Department of Energy Water Energy programs in the amount of $300 million through 2015;

– Extending the production tax credit and clean renewable energy bond programs; and

– Enhancing the regulatory process to expedite pilot project licensing and ocean energy permitting.

EPRI says this update incorporates new data and expands the discussion of how research, incentives, and the regulatory environment can affect the timing of commercialization of new renewable waterpower generation. Also reviewed are the converging issues of water use and power production and the influence waterpower development will have on job creation.

To obtain a copy of this report, contact EPRI Customer Assistance Center at (1) 800-313-3774; E-mail: askepri@epri.com.

Glen Canyon Dam experiment shows beneficial results

Resources along the Colorado River in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Canyon National Park generally benefited from a high-flow experiment conducted in March 2008 from Glen Canyon Dam near Page, Ariz., according to research findings released by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

On March 5, 2008, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation began a 60-hour high-flow experiment at Glen Canyon Dam. Water was released through the dam’s 1,312-MW power plant and bypass tubes to a peak of about 41,500 cubic feet per second, about twice the normal peak. Two previous experiments were conducted in 1996 and 2004.

The 2008 experiment, designed to mimic natural pre-dam flooding, tested the ability of high flows to: rebuild eroded Grand Canyon sandbars; create habitat for the endangered humpback chub; and benefit other resources such as archaeological sites, rainbow trout, aquatic food for fish, and riverside vegetation.

Before the dam’s completion in 1963, spring snowmelt produced floods that carried large quantities of sand that created and maintained Grand Canyon sandbars. Today, Glen Canyon Dam, which provides hydropower to customers in six states, traps about 90 percent of the sand once available to maintain Grand Canyon sandbars. Thus, high flows are the only way to rebuild these important resources.

The studies’ key findings are:

– The 2008 experiment resulted in widespread increases in the area and volume of sandbars, expansions of camping areas, and increases in the number and size of backwater habitats (areas of low-velocity flow thought to be used as rearing habitat by native fish);

– Six months after the experiment, the new sandbars had been largely eroded by typical fluctuating flow dam operations driven by electrical energy demand. However, median sandbar elevation was still slightly higher and backwater habitats still slightly more abundant than before the experiment. Although stable and relatively lower monthly volume releases are the most effective at limiting sandbar erosion, the volume of water that must be released from Glen Canyon Dam annually is determined by basin hydrology and legal requirements to deliver water from the upper to lower Colorado River Basin.

– Timing the 2008 experiment in March likely reduced successful nonnative seedling germination and created new sandbars during the spring windy season, which allowed for the greatest transport of windblown sand to archeological sites where it protects sites from weathering and erosion.

– In the Lees Ferry rainbow trout fishery, high flows reduced the New Zealand mud snail population by about 80 percent. This nonnative species is considered a nuisance because the snails cannot be digested when eaten by trout. In contrast, midges and black flies, high-quality food items for fish, increased.

– Young rainbow trout in the Lees Ferry river reach had better survival and growth rates after the experiment, which scientist think may have resulted from improved habitat conditions and better food quality. Additionally, data show that rainbow trout did not move downstream in significant numbers as the result of the high flows.

New York Power Authority funding energy research center

A $500,000 grant from the New York Power Authority (NYPA) will be used to support energy research by the Advanced Energy Research Technology Center at Stony Brook University.

The grant is intended to support efforts to advance innovative energy research, education, and technology deployment with a focus on efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy that will establish New York State as a leader in the clean energy economy, NYPA says.

Research at the center is expected to focus on the needs of the state’s utilities, such as transmission, the smart grid, and utility scale renewables.

In addition, both NYPA and the center have committed to work towards a potential future smart grid project, which would be funded in part by an additional NYPA grant of up to $250,000. This work would include modeling and simulation of a smart grid, interoperability of smart grid systems, or smart grid cyber security.

NYPA is the largest state-owned electric utility in the U.S. NYPA has 18 generating facilities. About 75 percent of the electricity it produces comes from hydroelectric plants.

Reclamation to study Colorado Basin water supply, demand

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation plans to perform a comprehensive Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study.

This study is the first of several planned in the western U.S. to identify options for water management. Other studies will include the Milk and St. Mary River System in Montana and the Yakima River Basin in Washington.

The goal of the comprehensive Colorado River Basin study is to define imbalances in water supply and demand over the next 50 years in the basin and adjacent areas that receive Colorado River water. The basin covers portions of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The study is to develop and analyze adaptation and mitigation strategies to resolve imbalances.

The $2 million study is to assess risks to Colorado Basin resources including water allocations and deliveries under the Law of the River, hydroelectric generation, recreation, fish, wildlife, water quality, flows for ecological systems, and flood control.

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