US Department of Energy invests $6.3 million to enhance environmentally sustainable hydropower and protect fish populations

20 September 2023

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced funding exceeding $6.3 million is to be allocated to six research and development projects focused on the advancement of fish passage and protection technologies, ultimately reducing the environmental impact of hydropower on aquatic ecosystems.

These selections support an increasingly important role for hydropower in providing grid reliability as the US transitions to a clean energy system with more variable resources like wind and solar.  

Jeff Marootian, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, emphasized the dual importance of clean energy and biodiversity protection, stating, "Hydropower is a flexible renewable energy resource that has a central role as we move toward a clean electricity sector and economy. But the climate crisis is also a biodiversity crisis, and we need to protect species as we move toward a clean energy system. This investment in fish passage and protection technologies will help fish move safely through hydropower facilities while reducing the overall environmental impact of hydropower and restoring fish population levels."

The $6.3 million investment will drive the development of innovative fish passage and protection technologies through six selected projects:

  • Electric Power Research Institute's Fishheart Hydraulic Fishway: This project will deploy and assess a novel fish entry and transport system at the Santee Spillway hydropower project in Pineville, South Carolina. It aims to facilitate the safe upstream passage of American Shad while reducing capital and operational costs. (Award: $1,300,000)
  • MarineSitu's Automated Fish Passage Monitoring: Based in Seattle, Washington, this project will create an automated tool to track and classify fish navigating fish ladders. It will enhance the accuracy, reliability, and cost-efficiency of fish count data collection for monitoring fish passage at hydroelectric facilities in the Columbia River. (Award: $817,777)
  • Natel Energy's Safe Downstream Fish Passage: This project will evaluate Natel Energy's Restoration Hydro Turbine as a secure downstream passage for American Eel. It aims to advance the engineering of eel-safe turbines for broader utility-scale applications. (Award: $1,284,857)
  • Percheron Power's Helical Fish Passage: Testing the Stralkin Helix, a novel fish passage approach utilizing a rotating helix, this project in Kennewick, Washington, seeks to significantly reduce costs compared to conventional methods while improving multi-species fish passage. (Award: $1,300,000)
  • University of California, Davis' White Sturgeon Passage Assessment: Focused on assessing the safe turbine passage of White Sturgeon populations, this laboratory research aims to provide valuable insights to turbine designers, operators, and fish regulators, balancing renewable energy production and biodiversity protection. (Award: $875,000)
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst's D-Cylinder Fish Ladder Evaluation: Addressing the limitations of existing fish ladder designs, this project in Hadley, Massachusetts, will research and develop the D-cylinder ladder. It is tailored to accommodate various East Coast species, reduce construction and maintenance costs, and improve fish migration. (Award: $758,517)

These projects were selected under the Water Power Technologies Office's "Advancing Fish Passage and Protection Technologies" funding opportunity, reflecting the DOE's commitment to responsible and sustainable energy development.

It's important to note that selection for award negotiations does not guarantee funding, as DOE and applicants will engage in a negotiation process. The DOE reserves the right to cancel negotiations and rescind project selections for any reason during this phase. 

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