The February Grab Bag


Whence writing a regular sports column in my younger days that, as I have admitted before, relied more heavily on a crutch gimmick than the actual literal crutch leant on by Timothy Cratchit — I was always relieved after football season ended and the “Michael Harris Grab Bag of Sports Stuff” could be cut from four sections (one per each quarter) down to two (one per half). And since football season is over — well, minus The-Game-That-Shall-Not-Be-Referred-to-By-Its-Trademarked-Name-Lest-PennWell-Face-Cease-and-Desist-Letters-Until-The-End-Of-Time (but it rhymes with “Buper Sowl”) — everybody’s old pal, the Michael HarrisDaily Weekly Monthly Occasional Grab Bag of Sports Hydropower Stuff, returns in its truncated form.

1st Half
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan seems like it could ultimately be a pretty solid opportunity for the United States’ hydroelectric power sector given that the program seeks to reduce our carbon emissions by more than 30% from 2005 levels by 2030.

As some of you might have seen last week, however, hydropower has been excluded from the EPA’s Clean Energy Incentive Program, which, per the agency, is “designed to provide additional incentives for early investments in zero-emitting wind or solar generation, and energy efficiency in low-income communities.”

That wind and solar would be the recipients of development incentives and hydropower is not — assuming that greenhouse gas reduction really is the end goal — is categorically stupid.

The National Hydropower Association has been considerably more diplomatic in expressing its feelings for hydroelectricity’s moronic exclusion from the CEIP, which, in a fashion befitting American bureaucracy, is justified by the EPA through the most asinine of reasonings.

I’ve been trying to think of what I’d consider to be an appropriate analogy now for a good half hour, but really, any situation in which one were asked to accomplish a difficult task — only to have a tool integral to successfully accomplishing said task prohibited for entirely arbitrary reasons — would suffice.

For your halftime entertainment today, a dummy riding a unicycle and juggling along the wall atop Romania’s 220-MW Vidraru project because why not.

2nd Half

In hydropower-related news that doesn’t suck, I wrote a story last week about a new small hydropower training program that a technical institute in Pakistan has created.

The program is interesting to me for several reasons — the first being that it acknowledges the value of micro hydro in providing power to remote, off-grid locations; the second being that those who complete the four-part plan will understand everything from plant design to project management; and last, that a 13-year old vocational school has done what countless others have not in establishing a practical, comprehensive hydropower curriculum.

I assume the looming talent gap we’re anticipating in the U.S. will be experienced with varying degrees of similarity most everywhere, and even though my expectation isn’t for universities to start adding hydropower degrees, it does seem that the program is one that would be of significant value around the world.

So why don’t more of this type of thing exist? Is it a lack of resources? Or maybe just the assumption that those looking to enter the hydropower field will come from other less niched disciplines? Regardless, for remote, off-grid locations where both water management and energy generation are of considerable interest.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for

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