R&D Forum

Bureau of Reclamation performing basin studies

The Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Department of the Interior, plans to work with non-federal entities interested in performing basin studies under the WaterSMART program.

Basin studies are comprehensive studies that define options for meeting future water demands in river basins in the western U.S. where imbalances in supply and demand exist or are projected. Reclamation will work cooperatively with state and local partners to conduct the study.

A basin study is comprised of four main elements:

  • Projections of water supply and demand, including the risks of climate change;
  • Analysis of how existing water and power infrastructure and operations will perform in response to changing water realities;
  • Development of options and mitigation strategies to improve operations and infrastructure to supply adequate water in the future; and
  • Trade-off analysis of the options identified, findings and recommendations as appropriate

Information regarding the risks and impacts of climate change may be developed as part of the basin studies, or they may include baseline analyses developed through the West-Wide Climate Risk Assessments, another activity under the WaterSMART program.


The non-federal entities participating in these basin studies must contribute at least 50 percent of the total study cost as cash or in-kind services. Basin studies are not a financial assistance program. Therefore, Reclamation’s share of the study costs may only be used to support work done by Reclamation or its contractors.

Supporters of studies selected for further consideration will work with Reclamation technical experts to develop a joint study proposal for evaluation and prioritization by a Reclamation-wide review committee. The committee will develop a group of final recommendations to be considered for funding within existing budget parameters.

For more information on the Water-SMART program, visit www.usbr.gov.

EPRI advances research on hydro’s value to the grid

The first of two reports is due out this year in the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) collaborative project on quantifying the full value of hydropower in the transmission grid.

This project is using industry-proven analyses and modeling tools at the unit, plant, system, and regional/national level, over multiple time scales, to quantify the benefits provided by conventional and pumped-storage hydro projects to transmission grids, says Lindsey Rogers, a project engineer with EPRI. Renewables such as wind and solar introduce system balancing requirements, and hydro projects provide capabilities that are well-suited for addressing these power system integration needs. By considering future power system requirements, the benefits associated with changing operating parameters, making specific upgrades, or adding new hydro resources can be identified and valued.

The project includes tasks for:

  • Preparing industry case studies to provide insight into the interactions among markets, operational efficiencies, and maintenance costs;
  • Establishing a wide-area modeling approach and foundational scenario;
  • Evaluating hydropower participation in ancillary services markets;
  • Analyzing systemic operation constraints on hydropower resources;
  • Developing a database of current and projected cost elements for alternative pumped-storage and conventional hydro development options;
  • Developing and computing scenario simulations for Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) projects;
  • Determining the effects of alternative policy scenarios on the value of hydropower assets;
  • Defining new methodology for planning and applying hydropower assets to support the integration of variable renewables; and
  • Documenting and disseminating the project results.

Although hydro assets provide a key role in integrating renewables into the transmission system, markets may not reflect the true benefits and costs. This project will update, enhance, and expand methods for applying and valuing hydro assets in the changing electric grid, EPRI says. Anticipated outcomes include:

  • Quantification of the benefits provided by conventional and pumped-storage hydro projects to the transmission grid;
  • Development and validation of a power and market systems mode;
  • Scenario results examining the implications of alternative market structures and energy policies on hydro projects, transmission planning, and integration of non-hydro renewables;
  • A database of current and projected hydroelectric development options and cost elements for pumped-storage and conventional hydro projects; and
  • Detailed case studies examining the interaction among markets, operating practices, and maintenance consequences.

Partners in this project include Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratory, LCG Consulting Inc., EPRI, HDR|DTA and Hydro Performance Processes Inc.


Corps program studies survival of fish through turbines

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is coordinating a multi-year Turbine Survival Program (TSP), intended to improve the operation and design of turbines for safer fish passage.

TSP is part of the larger Columbia River Fish Mitigation (CRFM) program, which was established to address the National Marine Fisheries Service’s 1995 biological opinion and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s request to enhance survival of adult and juvenile salmonids through the Columbia and Snake river hydroelectric projects.

There are three main goals of TSP:

  • Improve understanding of the turbine passage environment and the impact of that environment on juvenile fish passage;
  • Optimize turbine operation for safer fish passage; and
  • Improve turbine designs for safer fish passage.

Research performed to date has shown that turbines can be a viable passage route for juvenile salmonids, says Martin Ahmann, senior hydraulic engineer with the Corps. For example, the direct mortality and injury of fish passing through turbines due to strike is just 2 to 4 percent. In addition, existing turbine pressures are not as extreme as previously perceived, pressure has a greater effect on tagged fish than non-tagged fish, and surgically implanted telemetry tags may negatively bias total turbine survival estimates, Ahmann says.


Research was performed on direct turbine survival at the 980-MW McNary project in 2002 and on total turbine survival at 1,076-MW Bonneville in 2004, 2,160-MW John Day in 2008, and 810-MW Lower Monumental in 2009. As a result of this research, TSP is working toward smaller injectable telemetry tags and neutrally buoyant externally attached telemetry tags to minimize or eliminate pressure-related biases.

TSP has several upcoming areas of focus:

  • Field verification/testing hypothesis of best operating conditions for turbines;
  • Evaluating methods to minimize tailrace predation;
  • Sharing “state of knowledge” through outreach to older stakeholders;
  • Continuing to support the operation and design of new turbines.

As a result of this research, several runner replacements are under way. Ten units at Bonneville are being replaced with minimum gap runners designed to improve efficiency and fish passage. In March 2010, the Corps awarded a contract to Voith Hydro for design and supply of fixed and adjustable blade turbine runners to improve fish passage for Units 2 and 3 at 603-MW Ice Harbor. The Corps also plans to install new turbine runners with fish passage improvements at McNary


TSP is funded by the CRFM program. The TSP team consists of engineers and biologists from the Corps’ Portland and Walla Districts, Hydroelectric Design Center and Engineer Research and Development Center. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory provide support.

CEATI publishes report on non-energy benefits of hydro

CEATI International Inc. has released a report: Quantifying the Non-Energy Benefits of Hydropower.

This technology review report discusses how the rapid growth of wind energy has led to the use of hydroelectric plants to firm wind generation, diminishing hydro’s capacity to provide reserve power. This threatens the reliability of all electrical transmission, the report says.

The report also monetizes the value of energy and non-energy benefits in comparable (2008) dollars. CEATI’s goal was to make policy makers, utility managers, and regulators aware of this growing problem and to more appropriately value the unique contribution hydropower can make toward a better total North American energy policy, the company says.

CEATI’s Hydraulic Plant Life Interest Group developed this report. This group is comprised of more than 40 utilities joined together through CEATI to share their experiences and to address issues pertinent to their day-to-day operations.

— To inquire about purchasing the non-energy benefits report, visit www.ceati.com and search for publication number T082700 0363.

Fish entrainment to be studied at Kachess Dam

The Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Department of the Interior, plans to conduct a fish entrainment study at Kachess Dam on the Upper Yakima River near Easton, Wash.

Kachess Dam is a 115-foot-tall, 1,400-foot-long earthfill structure built for water storage as part of Reclamation’s Yakima Project.

Reclamation plans to begin a fish entrainment study at Kachess to increase the bureau’s understanding of this issue at five Yakima Project storage dams. Studies performed at 13.6-MW Tieton Dam, part of the project, have shown a variety of valued species, including bull trout, are being entrained. Bull trout are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

The agency plans to hire a contractor to work with Reclamation staff. A rotary screw trap and split-beam hydroacoustic array will be installed at the dam and operated between May and October 2011. The contractor is to provide field data collection and technical oversight for the sampling activities.

DOE to study impacts of New Hampshire transmission line

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is studying the environmental impacts of a high-voltage, direct-current transmission line that Northeast Utilities and NSTAR are proposing between the U.S.-Canada border and southern New Hampshire to carry up to 1,200 MW from hydroelectric power sources in Canada.

Through their Northern Pass Transmission LLC venture, Northeast and NSTAR filed an application in October 2010 for a presidential permit to build the $1.1 billion Northern Pass line at the U.S. border. As part of its review of that application, DOE said in a Federal Register notice in February 2011 that it will prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS), with cooperation from the U.S. Forest Service, White Mountain National Forest, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ New England District.

The EIS also will provide the analysis the Forest Service needs to decide whether to grant the companies a special use permit to build the line in the White Mountain National Forest, the agency said.

DOE held a series of public scoping meetings in New Hampshire in March and gathered comments on the project until April. The agency is now working to issue a draft EIS by the end of November and complete the final EIS by April 2012.

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