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NREL names FAST prize concept stage winners

Nine pumped-storage hydropower (PSH) concepts have been named winners of the latest stage in the FAST Commissioning for Pumped-Storage Hydropower (PSH) prize competition.

The FAST Prize – which stands for “Furthering Advancements to Shorten Time” – is part of the American-Made Challenges series, designed to accelerate the commissioning times of PSH projects from 10 years to five, while reducing both cost and risk. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) administers and executes these prizes on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO).

The nine winners of the Concept Stage were selected from a field of 22 finalists. They will move on to the “incubation stage” of the competition, which will culminate in pitch presentations on Oct. 8. Up to three grand prize winners will win up to $550,000 in vouchers and cash prizes.

As part of a $2 million effort, NREL is working with laboratory partners Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to provide 50 hours of in-kind laboratory support for the nine concept winners during the incubation stage.

The Concept Stage winners are:

  • Tom Eldredge — Liberty University presented a modular closed-loop, scalable PSH system with a capacity range of 1 to 10 MW, adaptable to sites without natural bodies of water.
  • David Gatto Ames Construction combined several modern construction business acumen and advanced management techniques.
  • Tracy Livingston — Individual competitor combined excavation equipment modifications and process optimizations to achieve up to 50% reduction in excavation timelines.
  • Nicholas Jaffa — Penn State Applied Research Laboratory developed a pump-turbine concept that is modular, rapidly deployable, scalable, configurable, and operates flexibly to enable distributed low-head PSH.
  • Peter Schubert — Individual competitor analyzed the use of existing mine voids for housing hydraulic wind turbines to loft water to provide quickly-commissioned PSH, while tenting the upper lake for non-electric revenues.
  • Charlie Smith — Individual competitor analyzed using storm water storage tunnels during non-storm event periods in conjunction with local natural bodies of water for PSH energy generation.
  • Doug Spaulding — Nelson Energy proposes use of tunnel boring machines for underground excavation, which can decrease excavation time by 50% and reduce costs.
  • Eric Thompson — Southwest Research Institute analyzed promising opportunities for closed-loop PSH in west Texas using interconnected reservoirs, package turbine units, and fracking wastewater.
  • Gordon Wittmeyer — Southwest Research Institute presented a modular steel concept for dams that cuts cost by one-third and cuts construction schedules in half.

“The concepts developed by all of the winners are very promising for the future of PSH,” said Tessa Greco, the project manager who leads this initiative for NREL. “It will be exciting to help the winners further develop their innovations by leveraging the technical expertise, facilities, and marketing reach of the national laboratory network.”

NREL is DOE’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

NHA names Woolf new president and chief executive officer

Malcolm Woolf has officially taken on his new role of president and chief executive officer of the National Hydropower Association, replacing Linda Church Ciocci.

His appointment was officially announced to the HydroVision International attendees during the opening keynote session on Tuesday, July 23.

Ciocci will start a new position within the hydro industry — executive director of the Hydropower Foundation — and has launched her own consulting business, Ciocci Strategies LLC. She will remain an advisor to NHA until May 2020 to support the transition.

Woolf has decades of experience in the energy and environment field. He was a senior vice president with the Advanced Energy Economy and served in a cabinet level position for Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, where he worked to promote affordable, reliable clean energy. He also led energy policy for the National Governors Association.

Woolf has experience in both the executive branch and Capitol Hill, having served at the Environmental Protection Agency and as a Congressional committee staff member.

NHA Chairman Alvin Thoma headed up the search process and reported to the Board he was very pleased with the caliber of candidates presented for consideration through a national search company, Heidrick & Struggles.

“Malcolm stood out among the candidates with his passion for clean energy, previous experience in state government, and his fundraising experience. The board is very excited about working with Malcolm in this next phase of NHA’s growth and development. His skill-sets marry nicely with our current challenges and the goals within our Strategic Plan,” said Thoma.

NHA members attending HydroVision International will have an opportunity to meet Woolf at a Meet and Greet in the NHA Booth (#8039) on Wednesday, July 24, from 10 am to 12 pm.

Farmers Irrigation District hydropower facility offers sustainable solution to a growing challenge

by Jennifer Runyon, Content Director

On Monday, July 22, about 30 HydroVision attendees visited the beautiful Hood River Valley outside of Portland, Oregon to tour in-conduit hydropower projects and learn how modernizing irrigation districts is a sustainable solution to help combat a changing climate.


To understand the purpose of irrigation districts, you must first understand the climate in the Northwestern US, where apples, pears, cherries and other fine fruits are grown. While the land is lush, the lack of rain and underground aquifers makes it impossible for farmers to grow crops without irrigation, which is done by diverting water from the Hood River. This is usually done via open canals, which divert water from the river and, through gravity, deliver it to the farms. The East Fork irrigation district in the Hood River Valley delivers water that way. This was the first stop of the tour.

The East Fork Irrigation District diversion has not been modernized.

The challenges with open canals, however, are many. Water is lost to evaporation and seepage, which can account for up to 50% of water losses in some cases. Plus, open systems are costly to maintain and are prone to flooding.

Modernizing the system

The modern solution to open canals is pipes and a pressurized water system. According to Jed Jorgensen, senior renewable energy program manager for Energy Trust of Oregon, who led attendees on the tour, this solution is much more efficient than individual pumps on each and every farm in the region.

“Where you’ve got surplus water in that system, where it’s pressurized, that’s where we start to get in-conduit hydropower,” said Jorgensen. “That’s what you’re going to see today.”

Attendees first visited the East Fork diversion to see how an example of a system that was not modernized and did not have hydropower generation facilities and then visited facilities that had been modernized. 

In-conduit hydropower

In the early 80’s during what Farmer’s Irrigation District (FID) general manager Les Perkins said was a boom of small hydropower development, two districts developed hydropower. At the time, the utility avoided cost rate was somewhere near 15 cents per kWh, said Perkins, which made it advantageous to develop the systems. Today, it’s 2.2 cents per kWh, making it economically difficult to build new in-conduit hydropower systems today. 

FID’s two systems with a nameplate capacity of 4.4 MW have allowed the region to benefit from 30 years of hydropower revenue. The money that is made goes right back into the system itself for O&M, with a bit left over to upgrade equipment as needed, Perkins explained.

Les Perkins, General Manager of the Farmer’s Irrigation District talks to tour attendees during HydroVision. 


In 2015, Farmers Plant 2 hydropower facility, re-powered its 3-MW two-turbine system that was installed in 1986 with a 2.6-MW Gilkes Turgo turbine  (see lead image) to better manage the high silt load of their glacially fed water source. But even though the nameplate capacity when down, the output went up.

“We are able to produce quite a bit more electricity with this one unit, year round, because of the efficiency increases,” said Zach DeHart, hydropower operator for FID.

The powerhouse was also fully retrofitted with new controls and PLCs. DeHart said the new digital solution with the Turgo turbine is a dream to manage and has reduced maintenance time significantly. The old system cost upwards of $300,000 annually to keep running.

“The last time I pulled the cover off [the Turgo turbine] was last October and I could still see the grinding marks from the fabrication center,” said DeHart, adding “so it handles settlement incredibly well, which is a dream come true.”

Cost overruns on 2.4-GW Ituango hydro project in Colombia could exceed US$1 billion

Cost overruns associated with Colombia’s embattled 2.4-GW Hidroituango dam and hydro project could surpass US$1 billion, a leading academic told BNamericas. 

The project was originally budgeted at 11 trillion pesos (US$3.5 billion), but the cost has ballooned amid ongoing construction problems. Oswaldo Ordonez, a geologist and professor at La Universidad Nacional in Medellin, expects additional costs of at least 3 trillion pesos.

“We still don’t know the extent of the damage to the turbine rooms and the collapsed tunnels,” Ordonez said. “There are also a number of lawsuits against [project owner] EPM that could have a large bearing on the overall cost.”

EPM recently announced the completion of the hydroelectric project’s dam wall, which it said “significantly” eased the flooding threat to communities downstream on the Cauca River. Ordonez believes that the milestone reduces engineering and socioenvironmental risks associated with the project “by around 50%.” But he acknowledge uncertainty about the state of the belowground infrastructure

Ordozez also expects EPM to reveal an updated budget for the project by December following the completion of further studies. 

Construction work at Ituango was halted in April last year when the collapse of a water diversion tunnel forced the evacuation of 113,000 people and prompted the regional Antioquia government to declare a state of emergency amid fears of catastrophic flooding. A series of further complications led EPM to postpone the scheduled December 2018 startup by three years in a best-case scenario.

EPM chief executive Jorge Londono told reporters the completion of the dam’s crest will allow work to resume on the powerhouse, adding that two of the plant’s eight turbines are on track to begin operating by the end of 2021. 

Located about 170 km northeast of Medellin, Ituango is Colombia’s largest infrastructure project in investment terms. The 2.4-GW facility is expected to supply over 17% of the country’s electricity when fully operational.

HydroVision International kicks off in Portland, Ore., U.S.

The HydroVision International event is now under way in the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, with more than 3,000 hydropower professionals from around the world coming together for four days of learning and networking.

Monday, July 22 features two in-the-field technical tours of hydroelectric facilities, along with numerous workshops, seminars and courses ongoing, including Waterpower Hydro Basics.

Tuesday, July 23 will offer more courses and another technical tour, along with organizational meetings. The opening keynote session will set the tone for the next few days, followed by the opening of the exhibit hall, the first knowledge hub sessions, and the first networking opportunity.

Wednesday, July 24 offers dozens of summit sessions, nine knowledge hub sessions, our Women with Hydro Vision lunch, the Marine Energy Symposium, and the Dam Good networking reception.

Thursday, July 25 features our utility executive roundtable discussion, more summit sessions and knowledge hub sessions, the Harley Davidson motorcycle giveaway, and a closing networking party.

HydroVision International is the world’s largest hydro industry event and your best opportunity to learn and grow in your career. We hope you are there enjoying all this event has to offer!

If you were not able to attend, you can follow the action on Twitter. Just search for #HydroVision.

Rich appointed new CEO of International Hydropower Association

The International Hydropower Association (IHA) has appointed Eddie Rich as its new chief executive officer, to replace Richard M. Taylor, who is stepping down.

He will take up his appointment on September 9, 2019.

“IHA welcomes Mr. Rich and looks forward to working with him as the hydropower sector helps to contribute solutions to the energy transition challenges faced by the world today,” said IHA President Ken Adams.

Rich formerly was deputy head of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and has been with the organization since it was established in 2007. His responsibilities have included leading on EITI implementation globally and overseeing the organization’s finance, human resources and communications functions, as well as the organization of its triennial global conference.

IHA says Rich has worked extensively in international development and has a long track record of achieving transformational change through delivering ground-breaking, multi-stakeholder partnerships with industry, government and civil society. He has also published books and articles on governance entrepreneurship and multi-stakeholder governance.

His prior experience includes working as the UK Government Department for International Development (DFID)’s representative to Angola and deputy head in Kenya and as head of DFID’s corporate social responsibility team. He has degrees from the University of Oxford and the University of Westminster.

“There is need for a bigger and better contribution to green energy from hydropower. IHA is the key organisation to make sure that the industry is well informed about good practices, has the capacity to implement them, and the world benefits from the best use of this precious technology,” Rich said. “IHA’s work on building and sharing high quality and evidence-based knowledge is critically important.”

Taylor will be working as an independent consultant and will support the new CEO in a consultative capacity through 2020.

IHA is a non-profit membership organization with a mission to advance sustainable hydropower by building and sharing knowledge on its role in renewable energy systems, responsible freshwater management and climate change solutions. Its membership encompasses more than 100 organizations, as well as individual members.

Indian Cabinet approves expenditure for 2,880-MW Dibang Multipurpose Project

India’s Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved an expenditure of INR16 billion (US232.4 million) on pre-investment activities and various clearances for the 2,880-MW Dibang Multipurpose Project (MPP) in Arunachal Pradesh.

The estimated total cost of Project is INR280.8 trillion (US$4.1 trillion) and the estimated completion period for the project shall be nine years from receipt of Government sanction.

The dam, on the Dibang River in Lower Dibang Valley District, is 278 m high and will be the highest dam in India once completed. The underground powerhouse will contain 12 250-MW turbine-generator units and produce 11223 MU of energy in a 90% dependable year. This is the largest ever hydroelectric project to be constructed in India, according to the government’s Press Information Bureau.

Dibang MPP is envisaged as a storage based hydroelectric project with flood moderation as the key objective. After implementation of the master plan of the Brahmaputra Board for flood moderation of all rivers contributing to the Brahmaputra River, of which Dibang MPP is one component, a sizable area will be protected from flooding and help in mitigating the perennial damage due to floods in Assam.

On completion, the government of Arunachal Pradesh will get 12% free power from the project. The total value of benefit to Arunachal Pradesh will be INR 267.85 trillion (US$3.9 trillion) over the project life of 40 years.

The approval of the anticipated expenditure on pre-investment activities and various clearances will enable payment toward compensation for land acquisition and resettlement and rehabilitation activities to project affected families and state government, payment of net present value of forests, compensatory afforestation, catchment area treatment plan to the state government for forest lands, to secure the forest clearance (Stage-lI) and construction of roads and bridges for accessing the project site.

Ontario Power Generation announces plans to rebuild century-old Calabogie Generating Station

Plans are under way to rebuild one of Ontario Power Generation’s oldest hydroelectric generating stations, which was damaged by a tornado in 2018. Constructed in 1917, the 5-MW Calabogie Generating Station has produced renewable, low-cost electricity on the Madawaska River for decades.

On Sept. 21, 2018, the station was hit by a tornado, one of six that touched down in the Ottawa-Gatineau region in eastern Ontario, Canada. Wind gusts estimated at 175 km/h damaged more than two dozen homes and buildings in the Calabogie area and ripped off the roof of the Calabogie powerhouse.

Before this event, OPG concluded rebuilding the generating station, which was nearing the end of its operational life, was the best alternative to repairing or refurbishing. The project will involve demolishing the existing powerhouse and building a new powerhouse about 50 m upstream from the existing building. OPG plans to more than double the station’s existing capacity to about 10.8 MW. OPG does not plan to alter the current water levels and flows for the station.

Construction is planned to start in 2020, with the new station expected to go into service in 2022.

An environmental assessment is under way to evaluate the project’s potential effects on the environment during both construction and operation. As part of this process, OPG will consult with local First Nations, including the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan and the Algonquins of Ontario. “Consultation with Indigenous communities and the public is an integral component of this process,” said Mike Martelli, president of renewable generation at OPG.

The Calabogie GS was constructed by the Calabogie Light and Power Company to support local development and the lumber industry.

In 1929, OPG’s predecessor, the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario, acquired the Calabogie GS.

En+ Group to investigate, improve Lake Baikal ecosystem

En+ Group, a vertically integrated aluminium and power producer, has partnered with Russia’s leading universities on a scientific expedition to understand the factors affecting the ecosystem around Lake Baikal.

The project is part of the group’s comprehensive plan to ensure the world’s largest freshwater reservoir is managed sustainably by all stakeholders. Implementation of the overall program has been under way since 2011. The expedition will include the most detailed investigation to date into the impact of plastics on the lake’s freshwater environment, En+ Group says.

Lake Baikal is a unique environment, containing 20% of the world’s fresh water and having a surface area the size of Belgium and the Netherlands. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Lake Baikal is the oldest (25 million years) and deepest (1,700 m) lake in the world and has a capacity of 25.6 million acre-feet. It contains 20% of the world’s total unfrozen freshwater reserve and affects the regional climate of North Asia and the Arctic Basin. The Selenge River is the main source of Lake Baikal.

En+ is taking the lead on conserving this ecosystem, committing to a long-term data-driven approach. The business generates most of its hydropower from rivers flowing out of the lake.

With coordination from En+ Group, a team of researchers from Lomonosov Moscow State University, the Siberian Federal University, and the Russian Academy of Sciences will spend July to September studying human impacts on the lake’s ecosystem. Research from the expedition will inform the strategies of En+ Group’s local operations.

Researchers will focus on four key issues facing the lake ecosystem. Building upon surface level studies from 2017, they will examine micro-plastics present in the lake water. They will also analyze the content of heavy metals, toxins and biogenic elements in the ecosystem. In addition, they will seek to understand the cause of increased algal blooming, an important indication of changing pollution levels. And they will investigate the origins of a disease affecting Baikal’s endemic sponges. 

“Baikal is unique and, with most of En+ Group’s assets located in East Siberia, it is our duty to develop the region responsibly and safeguard this most important of habitats,” said Vladimir Kiriukhin, chief executive officer of En+ Group. “Our comprehensive Baikal preservation program will bring all stakeholders together to agree meaningful actions which will protect the unique environment for generations to come.”

Based on the findings, the group also aims to establish a roundtable of businesses, government agencies and NGOs to agree to a set of meaningful and measurable policies for sustainably managing the lake and its surrounding ecosystem.

The group anticipates initial findings will be published this in the third quarter of 2019, with a more detailed report released in December.

Patrick Byrne named CEO of GE’s digital business

Patrick Byrne is the new chief executive officer of GE’s Digital business. He will report to GE Chairman and Chief Executive Officer H. Lawrence Culp, Jr., and will be responsible for leading GE’s digital strategy. 

“Pat joins the GE leadership team at a critical time as we execute on our priorities to improve GE’s financial position and strengthen our businesses,” Culp said. “He has been at the heart of digital transformation everywhere he’s worked and brings considerable experience running businesses and collaborating across businesses within large organizations. Pat’s technical expertise and deep experience differentiating industrial technology with software and analytics make him the right leader to take this business forward.”

Byrne has been a leader in digital for more than three decades and brings expertise in industrial technology and strategic business development. He joins GE from Fortive, where he served as senior vice president, leading its product realization business. Prior to Fortive, Byrne was vice president of strategy and chief technology officer for Danaher’s Test and Measurement segment. In July 2014, he became the president of Tektronix, a leading worldwide provider of measurement solutions. Prior to that, he also served as president and CEO of Intermec Technologies and Agilent’s electronic measurement group.

Byrne started his career at Hewlett-Packard in 1983 and worked in various leadership roles in R&D, technology development, marketing, quality and general management, GE says.

He is a member of the board of directors of Micron Technology, a publicly traded global leader in memory solutions. Byrne holds a BS in electrical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MS in electrical engineering from Stanford University. 

In late 2018, GE announced its intention to establish a new Digital company

One example of GE’s work supporting hydropower is a recent three-year agreement signed with Enel Green Power to provide predictive operations and maintenance capabilities to the group’s hydro plants in Spain.

GE is one of more than 350 companies exhibiting at HydroVision International next week in Portland, Ore., U.S.


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