“Blue Gold” Report details new hydroelectric possibilities within existing infrastructure

Earlier today, at the 2015 National Hydropower Association (NHA) annual conference in Washington, D.C., the Hydro Research Foundation (Foundation) released its report, “Blue Gold: Building new hydropower with existing infrastructure generating hydropower’s future” (Blue Gold). 

Blue Gold details consensus policy changes meant to unleash new hydropower development and focuses on hydropower development at existing infrastructure since, according to the Foundation, “this type of hydropower development is most likely to occur in the near term.”

The 23-page document is part of the New Hydropower Innovation Collaborative, a series of documents generated from the partnership between the Foundation and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, with support from the U.S. Department of Energy.

In its report, the Foundation said in order for distributed hydro project opportunities to be realized, “Congress needs to eliminate federal involvement in small projects and dramatically simplify development on existing non-powered dams. The executive branch needs to apply to small-hydro the same policy and program tools it has previously applied to other distributed generation.”

The 8-MW Ridgway hydroelectric project in Colorado, completed in June 2014, is included in the report as an example of successfully simplifying development of existing non-powered dams.

Construction of the Ridgway Dam began in 1978 and was completed in 1987. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation owns the dam and the Ridgway Reservoir, a lake impounded by Ridgway Dam on the Uncompahgre River north of Ridgway in Ouray County, Colo. It was originally built to be compatible with a hydroelectric component, but was not economically feasible at the time, according to a 2014 report published by The Watch.

Blue Gold said success of the completed project was made possible by a US$15 million loan at 2% interest provided by the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Citing this and additional examples, the report said, state governments need to replicate successes from those states that have pioneered small-hydro policy innovation.

Notwithstanding the important federal legislative reforms of 2013, installing hydropower on existing infrastructure is a process that remains time-consuming, costly and rare.

Blue Gold identifies non-controversial regulatory changes it says could make similar processes inexpensive, relatively quick and commonplace.

To read the entire report, click on the link: Blue Gold Report.

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for HydroWorld.com.

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