Scientists at Michigan State University are using a grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate new ways of producing hydropower, increasing food production and lessening the environmental damage caused by dams.
The study is called Rethinking Dams: Innovative Hydropower Solutions to Achieve Sustainable Food and Energy Production and Sustainable Communities.
In a four-year project that runs until Dec. 31, 2020, MSU is investigating innovative technology geared toward smaller dams and in-water turbines, ways to move nutrient-rich sediment from behind dams onto farm fields to increase food production, and strategies to fix the unfair price structure of energy produced by hydropower facilities (under which, MSU says, “far-away urban residents tend to pay less for dam-produced energy, while nearby rural residents pay more”.
Emilio Moran, Hannah Distinguished Professor and principal investigator on the project based in MSU’s College of Social Science, will partner with MSU hydroengineers, hydrogeologists, climatologists, economists and biologists. The team will focus on the Amazon Basin, which it calls the epicenter of hydropower development.
Moran said the team will assess the full impact of dams and ultimately attempt “to fit hydropower to the diverse situations of people who are near the dams and to find the right technology.”
Team engineers will design in-water turbines that could be prototypes for new ways to generate hydropower without the negative social or environmental costs, according to a press release.
MSU reports the grant was $2.6 million. The NSF website indicates a value of $1,135,923.