New Hydroelectric Turbine Design Aims To Improve Fish Passage At Snake River Dams
For years, engineers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have worked to design a hydroelectric turbine that’s safer for fish. They’ve recently installed a new design that’s improving energy efficiency and improving fish survival along the Snake River, with plans to upgrade more turbines over the next several years.
The Army Corps installed the first of two designs at Ice Harbor Dam, just outside the Tri-Cities in southeastern Washington. A second blade design should be finished in 2021.
“It really is a new generation of turbine design for our hydropower system,” said the Corps’ Martin Ahmann. He’s helped to design these new turbines for most of his career.
This new turbine has been shown to increase juvenile fish survival rate to more than 98%.
“It allows us in the future, an opportunity to reduce our dependency on spill, fish passage and the need for screening our turbine intake to keep fish out of the turbines,” Ahmann said. “We see this as a viable passage route for juvenile salmon.”
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, used specially-designed mechanical fish, known as sensor fish, to test the pressure and blade strikes that fish could experience. Designers also tested the turbine blades with live fish, Ahmann said.
The new design will also increase energy efficiency by four percent – that’s enough to power 3,000 homes.
“Improvements that we make for fish generally result in improved efficiency for power,” Ahmann said.
The first turbine design is what’s known as a fixed-blade turbine, which works much like a boat propeller, Ahmann said. The second design will feature an adjustable blade design, where the blades on the propeller pitch to make the turbine more efficient.
The Army Corps plans on installing 14 new turbines at McNary Dam and 16 turbines at John Day Dam — both on the Columbia River — over the next several years.
This month, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho issued a bold plan that called for removing those same dams to save the salmon. In between those two acts were decades of litigation that show no sign of ending and $17 billion worth of improvements to the dams that did little to help fish. Continue Reading Idaho Congressman Hopes Politics Align In Proposal To Remove Snake River Dams In Washington
A $33.5 billion stimulus package would breach the four dams by 2031. Much of the funding would go toward solutions for what would be lost, including hydropower, less access to irrigation, grain transportation and economic development for Lewiston and the Tri-Cities. Continue Reading Idaho Congressman Proposes $33.5 Billion Plan For Breaching Snake River Dams In Washington
The campaigning is done. Now what’s left is the counting. Here is how candidates in Washington’s 4th and 5th Congressional districts have talked about key environmental and natural resource issues during the campaign. Continue Reading Dams, Salmon, Wolves: How Key Issues Played Out In Eastern Washington Congressional Races