Northwest Hydropower News

Community Outreach at Okanogan County Fair

The Okanogan complex fire, with injuries, loss of property and thousands of acres burned land, hit our friends in Okanogan County hard. Showing spirit synonymous with resilience to this largely rural area, the county fair was postponed but not canceled. FWEE was proud to be on hand to engage with kids and adults to learn about renewable energy. Check out a couple of pics.

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Teaching Hydropower in the Classroom

Check out the PowerWheel video, which showcases a popular way for teachers and utilities to explain how the force of falling water supports the generation of clean, renewable energy. By hooking up the PowerWheel to a faucet, student lessons provide Eureka moments as they learn about gravity, mechanical energy and power generation. A favorite is using the PowerWheel to charge a cell phone.

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Columbia Salmon returns show progress

Hundreds of millions of dollars are invested annually by federal, public and private operators to mitigate the environmental effects of operating hydroelectric projects. Fish, particularly salmon and steelhead, are the most visible barometer of whether these investments are producing the desired results.

A 2014 Citizen Update issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Administration points to positive progress for anadromous fish heading up the Columbia and Snake rivers. They report the highest rate of returns of hatchery and wild Chinook, coho and sockeye to Bonneville Dam since counting began in 1938.

Mother Nature, however, made for tough conditions this summer. Low snowpacks, poor stream flows, heat and drought caused severe issues in places. In July, for instance, recorded water temperatures at Bonneville Dam were nearly 5 degrees higher than the 10-year average. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimated almost half of the 500,000 sockeye salmon perished before successfully migrating up the Columbia River. This Seattle Times article recounts some of these effects.

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What’s pumped storage got to do with it?

Good renewable energy news: Wind generation in the Northwest grew from almost nothing in 1998, to over 4,700 MW in 2015.

Other news: Bringing the variable nature of wind generation on and off line quickly is a “load balancing” challenge. Hydropower has admirably supported this balancing role, but current facilities to do that are largely maxed out.

As wind and other variable generation resources come on-line, could pumped storage be the load balancing key to maintaining the Northwest’s leadership in clean, renewable energy for years to come?

Click here for presentation provided by FWEE member MWH on just this subject at the international HydroVision Conference held in Portland, OR in July. It does a really good job of explaining the challenge and the opportunity.

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Thinking Clean Energy at 30,000 feet

If you were flying Alaska Airlines this spring, you may have read a feature article, “The Triumph of Clean Energy.” Click here to read. Using the experience of Kodiak, Alaska, themes regarding integration of hydro, wind and solar power to support a renewable energy future are explored.

For the Northwest, these themes are explored in even greater depth in FWEE’s 2015 publication Following Nature’s Current. Our renewable energy future is happening now.

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Take the FWEE Hydro Cache Challenge

The first documented placement of a GPS-located cache took place on May 3, 2000, by Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Oregon. Since then, upwards of a million geocaches have been “stashed” worldwide. By stashing caches at 13 hydropower projects throughout the region, people of all ages are joining in on the fun with the FWEE Hydro Cache Challenge.

The Hydro Cache Challenge takes you to roads less traveled, scenic rest stops you never knew about, and the story of hydropower. After all, this bountiful, clean, low cost and renewable resource accounts for about 60% of the Northwest’s electricity.

Said one geocacher, “McKitten and I needed to get out of the house so Mamacats can do report cards. So, east of the mountains we go! My thanks to the powers that be that have arranged this very informative and interesting challenge.”

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Proposed PUD project holds meetings

By Lou Marzeles
Goldendale Sentinel

The Klickitat PUD (KPUD) thinks water is just too lazy, just lying there. At best, it seems, you can make it run through a dam and generate electricity. But why not really make water go to work?

If KPUD can bring an ambitious new project to completion, water will work on a hugely prodigious scale, the likes of which have rarely been seen anywhere. And indications are that KPUD just could pull it off.

It has the colorless title John Day Pool Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Project. The name seems to match the scale of what it wants to do.

Essentially the project will pump water uphill into gigantic reservoirs when power is plentiful. Then, when power is somewhat depleted, the water can be released back downhill through turbines to generate more electricity. We’re talking a lot of water, capable of generating 1,200 megawatts of power. Read more

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UW extension educator promotes small hydropower

By Susan Lockhart
Northern Wyoming Daily News

Milt Geiger gets pretty excited when he talks about small hydropower projects in Wyoming, but he says his excitement is tempered by his economics background which makes him weigh the benefits and the cost.

Geiger, a University of Wyoming Extension Educator in the areas of energy economics and renewable energy, held a workshop this past week in Worland on small hydropower projects. Read more

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EWEB’s third Leaburg gate locked open

By Christian Hill

Leaburg Dam operators have locked its only operating rollgate into an open position to avoid a potential failure after it malfunctioned last month, the Eugene Water & Electric Board’s engineering manager told utility commissioners Tuesday evening.

The Dec. 24 malfunction, which the utility did not previously disclose to the public, occurred the day after its No. 1 rollgate failed and slammed shut. Workers are expected to finish repairs to the No. 2 rollgate, which failed nearly three years ago, next week.

The engineering manager, Mel Damewood, told The Register-Guard after his presentation to commissioners that the No. 3 rollgate could still operate if needed. But officials decided that allowing it to continue operating could risk leaving the dam without any functional rollgates, which are cylindrical floodgates. Read more

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2015 river dredging at Ice Harbor Dam cleared by court

By Associated Press and Tri-City Herald
The News Tribune

Dredging could start as soon as Monday at the downstream navigation lock approach at Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River, after a ruling this week by a federal judge in Seattle.

The Army Corps of Engineers had awarded a $6.7 million contract to a Tacoma company in November to perform dredging to maintain the navigation channel in the Lower Snake River at the congressional mandated minimum of 250 feet wide by 14 feet deep. Read more

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