Today, the U.S. Department of Energy Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) announced $2.4 million in funding for four projects aimed at developing and testing innovative upstream and downstream fish passage solutions for hydropower dams, while reducing construction and operation costs. WPTO is committed to lowering the cost of hydropower deployment while significantly reducing the environmental footprint of new and existing technologies as part of its HydroNEXT initiative. Cost-effective fish passage technologies will assist hydropower owners and operators in meeting rigorous environmental permitting requirements and bring more hydropower online faster.

"Early-stage investments in innovative fish passage solutions are needed to reduce the costs and environmental impacts of new projects," WPTO Director Alejandro Moreno said. "Enabling industry to develop novel technologies that can improve the environmental performance at hydropower facilities ensures that the nation’s hydropower fleet continues to generate clean electricity and provide essential reliability services for the nation’s power grid."

Fish passage technologies provide a way for fish to navigate barriers such as dams and impoundments, preserve environmental integrity and river connectivity, and enable downstream and upstream fish migrations.

The following selected projects were chosen to develop new designs that will improve efficiency and cost, and demonstrate broad applicability to a variety of different hydropower sites:

Alden Research Laboratory, Inc. of Holden, Massachusetts will evaluate two new modular and scalable bypass systems for transporting migrating adult eels downstream in a biologically effective manner. Modular systems use separate, similar components that can be constructed off-site then easily integrated into new or existing sites and scaled to greater capacities. The effects of these systems on American eel will be tested in the Alden Research Laboratory’s flume and then in the field at the Mine Falls Hydroelectric Project on the Nashua River in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Black Bear Hydro Partners, LLC: Brookfield Renewable of Milford, Maine will evaluate the performance of the Whooshh Fish Transport System—a new fish passage solution using lengths of flexible tube and slight differences in pressure to gently propel fish up and around obstacles in waterways—for allowing safe, timely, and efficient transport and collection of endangered Atlantic salmon broodstock at the Milford hydroelectric facility on the Penobscot River in Maine. Improving costs and efficiency of fish passage, including collection of broodstock of these endangered fish, will contribute to species recovery efforts while simultaneously testing the effects of this new technology next to an existing fish ladder at the facility.

University of Massachusetts Amherst of Hadley, Massachusetts will evaluate the performance of a novel fishway entrance and auxiliary water system, known as the Entrance Palisade, in a semi-controlled environment. This new design represents a fundamental shift in how water is delivered for fish passage and has the potential to drastically reduce construction costs. The Entrance Palisade will be evaluated for its effect on fish passage efficiency, fish passage rates, and animal behavior with multiple species of concern, including American shad.

Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. of Knoxville, Tennessee will develop and demonstrate the use of machine learning techniques with software tools to automate the detection of adult American eel from multi-beam, imaging sonar data. Automating the detection of adult American eel has the potential to enhance the overall quality of eel monitoring and reduce the cost of compliance by reducing data storage requirements and the amount of skilled labor required to analyze the data.

DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) supports early-stage research and development of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies that make energy more affordable and strengthen the reliability, resilience, and security of the U.S. electric grid.

For more information on water power research, development, and testing see the EERE Water Power Technology Office's website.