This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

November 11, 2009

DOE Awards up to $30.6 Million for Fish-Friendly Hydropower Upgrades

DOE announced on November 4 its selection of seven hydropower upgrade projects to receive up to $30.6 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. The selections will deploy innovative technologies such as high-efficiency, fish-friendly turbines; improved water intakes; and advanced control systems in order to increase power generation and improve environmental stewardship. The selected projects will increase generation by an estimated 187,000 megawatt-hours per year—enough to meet the annual electric usage of more than 12,000 average U.S. homes—at an estimated incremental cost of less than 4 cents per kilowatt-hour.

DOE sought cost-shared projects that upgrade existing hydropower facilities without requiring significant modifications to dams, allowing for the projects to be developed quickly to help create jobs and stimulate local economies. Of the seven selected projects, three will add a total of 28.6 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity, including an Alcoa, Inc. project to upgrade four new turbines, generators, and transformers at its facility in Robbinsville, North Carolina, adding 22 MW of capacity and increasing generation by 23%; a project of the City of Tacoma, Washington, to add two more turbines to an existing hydropower facility in Potlatch, adding 3.6 MW of capacity and increasing power production by 14%; and a project by the Incorporated County of Los Alamos, New Mexico, to add a low-flow turbine to its hydropower plant in Abiquiu, adding 3 MW of capacity and boosting generation by 22%.

Three other projects will allow increased power production by producing power more efficiently from a wider range of flow rates. These include an Alabama Power Company project to upgrade four units at three hydropower plants on the Coosa River, increasing generation by 7.3%; a project of the City of Boulder, Colorado, to replace two turbines with one efficient unit (and upgrade wiring) at its Boulder Canyon facility, boosting generation by 30%; and an Energy Northwest project to design, manufacture, and install a new turbine at its facility in Packwood, Washington, increasing power production by 6%. In addition, the North Little Rock Electric Department in Arkansas will install an automated intake device at its facility on the Arkansas River, allowing the facility to operate more reliably by keeping its intake clear of debris.

Some of the projects will also yield environmental benefits by removing lead components, asbestos insulation, and water-cooled transformers, which can leak oil. A noteworthy environmental benefit at the City of Tacoma project is the addition of an upstream fish collection pool, enabling the reintroduction of native fish above the dam for the first time since the 1920s. See the DOE press release and the press release from Tacoma Power.