The University of California at Davis was awarded $299,970 from the Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program to look at the effects of climate change on hydropower operations and their environmental impact downstream

More than 300 hydropower dams in California are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), with permits for more than half of them scheduled to expire by 2020. Because of the long life span of hydropower project licenses – 30 to 50 years – the only time to make operational changes to a project that affects power generation, water quality, ecological health, and recreational functions is during relicensing.

The UC Davis team will conduct a climate change environmental study for the Yuba River Development Project, which has a capacity to generate 362MW of electricity. A new license for the Yuba River project is scheduled to be filed by 2014.

The study’s main goal is to develop methods and tools that can be used to analyze hydropower projects that are being relicensed. The research will also help support incorporating climate change data in the future licensing of hydropower projects before FERC.