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Title: How run-of-river operation affects hydropower generation and value

Abstract

Although most rivers in the US are regulated to support human water uses, while preserving aquatic ecosystems, the effectiveness of regulations is rarely assessed. Concerns for restoring natural flow regimes have increased requirements for "run-of-river" (ROR) operation. It is widely believed that such restrictions (1) are mandated to protect aquatic biota, (2) decrease hydropower generation per unit flow, and (3) decrease energy revenue. In this study, we tested these three assumptions by reviewing hydropower projects that changed from peaking to ROR operation as a result of license modifications. ROR was often prescribed in states with strong water quality certification requirements and migratory fish species. Although benefits to aquatic resources were frequently cited, changes were often motivated by other considerations. When testing the second assumption, we found that the overall change in annual generation across projects was not significant, and much smaller than the effect of climate. However, we detected a significant decrease in generation efficiency at one-quarter of hydropower projects. When testing the third assumption, we found the expected decrease in flow during peak demand at seven of ten projects. At the remaining projects, diurnal fluctuations actually increased due to operation of upstream storage projects. We discuss the economic implicationsmore » of these results, including both producer costs and ecological benefits. Regional- or national-scale studies of hydropower regulation are long overdue. Public dissemination of flow data, license provisions, and monitoring data would facilitate regional scale studies like this one, while increasing regulatory transparency and providing feedback to decision makers.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [1]
  1. ORNL
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
OSTI Identifier:
930906
DOE Contract Number:  
DE-AC05-00OR22725
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Environmental Management; Journal Volume: 40
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
13 HYDRO ENERGY; 29 ENERGY PLANNING, POLICY AND ECONOMY; HYDROELECTRIC POWER PLANTS; POWER GENERATION; RIVERS; RESOURCE MANAGEMENT; ECONOMICS; EFFICIENCY; REGULATIONS

Citation Formats

Jager, Yetta, and Bevelhimer, Mark S. How run-of-river operation affects hydropower generation and value. United States: N. p., 2007. Web. doi:10.1007/s00267-007-9008-z.
Jager, Yetta, & Bevelhimer, Mark S. How run-of-river operation affects hydropower generation and value. United States. doi:10.1007/s00267-007-9008-z.
Jager, Yetta, and Bevelhimer, Mark S. Mon . "How run-of-river operation affects hydropower generation and value". United States. doi:10.1007/s00267-007-9008-z.
@article{osti_930906,
title = {How run-of-river operation affects hydropower generation and value},
author = {Jager, Yetta and Bevelhimer, Mark S},
abstractNote = {Although most rivers in the US are regulated to support human water uses, while preserving aquatic ecosystems, the effectiveness of regulations is rarely assessed. Concerns for restoring natural flow regimes have increased requirements for "run-of-river" (ROR) operation. It is widely believed that such restrictions (1) are mandated to protect aquatic biota, (2) decrease hydropower generation per unit flow, and (3) decrease energy revenue. In this study, we tested these three assumptions by reviewing hydropower projects that changed from peaking to ROR operation as a result of license modifications. ROR was often prescribed in states with strong water quality certification requirements and migratory fish species. Although benefits to aquatic resources were frequently cited, changes were often motivated by other considerations. When testing the second assumption, we found that the overall change in annual generation across projects was not significant, and much smaller than the effect of climate. However, we detected a significant decrease in generation efficiency at one-quarter of hydropower projects. When testing the third assumption, we found the expected decrease in flow during peak demand at seven of ten projects. At the remaining projects, diurnal fluctuations actually increased due to operation of upstream storage projects. We discuss the economic implications of these results, including both producer costs and ecological benefits. Regional- or national-scale studies of hydropower regulation are long overdue. Public dissemination of flow data, license provisions, and monitoring data would facilitate regional scale studies like this one, while increasing regulatory transparency and providing feedback to decision makers.},
doi = {10.1007/s00267-007-9008-z},
journal = {Environmental Management},
number = ,
volume = 40,
place = {United States},
year = {Mon Jan 01 00:00:00 EST 2007},
month = {Mon Jan 01 00:00:00 EST 2007}
}