U.S. firms to map Brazil’s potential hydro sites

The organization that cataloged more than a half-million hydro resource sites in the United States has been commissioned to perform a similar water energy resource assessment for Brazil.

In May, Washington-based International Utility Efficiency Partnerships Inc. (IUEP) agreed to fund proposals by Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) and HydroPartners LLC to perform the Brazilian water energy resource assessment.

The objective is to facilitate projects that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to build partnerships of U.S. and Brazilian organizations to expand Brazil’s electricity sources and contribute to rural electrification.

Battelle is operator of Idaho National Laboratory, the U.S. Energy Department lab that developed the U.S. assessment and created the Virtual Hydropower Prospector, an Internet-based system that catalogs more than 500,000 existing and potential U.S. hydro sites ranging from 10 average kW to 1,800 average MW. HydroPartners is an Ohio-based infrastructure development company with interests in Brazil.

The project is to include a basic resource assessment to estimate the power potential of every stream segment, or water energy resource site, in Brazil. It also includes a feasibility assessment to determine which stream reaches are feasible hydroelectric project sites and what their power potential is.

Elevations, flows compared to determine hydro potential

Under a subcontract with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), BEA is to obtain basic water energy resource data and stream flow prediction equations using Brazilian stream flow gage data and climatic data for the country. USGS is to develop three-dimensional hydrography using digital elevation maps. Elevation changes will be combined with predicted flow rates to evaluate the power potential of every stream segment in the country.

BEA also is to analyze the basic data to identify power potential in areas where hydro development is unlikely due to public policy or environmental sensitivity. It also will identify stream reaches that already have been developed.

The resulting information will be identified for each Brazilian state to provide summaries of statewide hydropower potentials.

Then HydroPartners, its Brazilian subsidiary HydroPartners do Brasil Ltda., and BEA are to define feasibility criteria applicable to Brazil, including site accessibility and proximity to load or transmission. The partners then will define a standard hydro plant development model applicable to Brazil, and apply it to feasible sites to determine working flow rates, hydraulic heads, hydropower potentials, and penstock lengths.

Report to be presented to Brazilian agencies

BEA is to document the results in an Idaho National Laboratory technical report similar to the U.S. report. It also will prepare a presentation to Brazilian agencies on results of the resource assessment and a Brazilian counterpart to the Virtual Hydropower Prospector GIS application.

The Internet-based program will display water energy resource sites on a map of Brazil with features including hydrography, transportation and power infrastructure, cities and populated areas, and federally controlled lands. The program is to provide information allowing the user to locate and evaluate potential project sites.

The Brazilian assessment might reveal results similar to those found in the United Stats. Despite the notion that U.S. hydro resources have been fully developed, the U.S. water energy resource assessment found 80 percent of U.S. stream reaches are not developed and are not excluded from development.

The U.S. Virtual Hydropower Prospector is available on the Internet at http://hydropower.inl.gov. Using no special software, users may display sites with features needed for preliminary feasibility assessments. The system also permits downloading of site maps.

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