Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hydropower Potential - III

Furry Creek, BC small hydro project
There is significant untapped potential for hydropower around the world, including in the UK and in Europe more generally. There's also great potential in the United States.

In 2006 the US Department of Energy (DOE) Hydropower Division conducted an assessment of the potential for new micro and small hydropower across the USA.The assessment is based on traditional hydropower potential, not hydrokinetic potential, but the values are useful to note. DOE has identified over 500,000 sites with enough water volume and head that can each generate at least 10kW, and DOE has even mapped them online for every state with its Virtual Hydropower Prospector tool. DOE further overlaid various feasibility criteria in its maps and identified approximately 130,000 sites meeting the criteria. At least 20% of these sites would be suitable for at least one Hydrovolts turbine, for a total of 26,000 sites and at least that many turbines.
More than 1,500MW of annual mean power is available in each of Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho and Alaska. In some of these states utilities are already exploring how to harness this great untapped resource. For example, the Snohomish PUD in Washington State is planning more than 10 small hydro projects, including at Young's Creek. Says General Manager Steve Klein, "We're in a situation where we're doing what our customers and society want."

Similar projects have been proposed or completed in British Columbia, Colorado, and throughout the Pacific Northwest. The DOE study notes more than 500 suitable sites in Washington alone. Hydrovolts turbines provide an alternative technology to realize the promise of small hydropower for utility customers as well as isolated communities owning their own micro-grid. Unlike projects such as the one at Furry Creek, BC shown in the picture above, the Hydrovolts approach does not require the expense and environmental impact of a dam or weir, and allows both fish and whitewater enthusiasts easily to pass.

Hydrovolts turbines are a viable alternative to conventional hydropower in many places, and offer an attractive amount of power generation at significantly lower cost and reduced environmental impact.
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