The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced more than $6.3 million for six research and development projects to improve fish passage and protection technologies and reduce the environmental impacts of hydropower on species and ecosystems. Fish passage and protection technologies provide a way for fish to navigate barriers such as dams and impoundments and provide river connectivity by enabling fish movement and migrations. These selections support an increasingly important role for hydropower in providing grid reliability as the United States transitions to a clean energy system with more variable resources like wind and solar.  

“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,” said Jeff Marootian, principal deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. “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 investment announced today will advance fish passage and protection technologies. The six selected projects are: 

  • Electric Power Research Institute’s Evaluation of the Fishheart Hydraulic Fishway for Passing Fish Upstream at Hydropower Dams (Palo Alto, CA). This project will deploy and evaluate a new fish entry and transport system (or “fishway”), designed to provide safe, timely, and effective passage of American Shad at the Santee Spillway hydropower project in Pineville, South Carolina. Successful demonstration of the fishway will offer hydropower facility operators an option for improved upstream passage for multiple species with reduced capital and operating costs. (Award amount: $1,300,000) 
  • MarineSitu’s Advanced Fish Passage Monitoring with Automated Optical Tracking and Classification (Seattle, WA). This project will develop an automated tool to track and classify fish moving through fish ladders and demonstrate it at hydroelectric facilities in the Columbia River. This project will improve accuracy, reliability, and timeliness of fish count data for fish passage monitoring, automate detection and tracking of fish species and features including size, origin, and injuries, and lower the costs of monitoring by more than 50%. (Award amount: $817,777) 
  • Natel Energy's Safe Downstream Fish Passage: Laboratory and Field Evaluation of Eastern U.S. Migratory Fish Passage Through Restoration Hydropower Turbines (Alameda, CA). This project will evaluate Natel Energy’s Restoration Hydro Turbine as a safe downstream passage for eel by conducting the first full-scale, field passage test of American Eel. This testing will help advance the scientific knowledge required to engineer eel-safe turbines for utility-scale application and advance safe and effective eel passage through commercial turbines. (Award amount: $1,284,857) 
  • Percheron Power’s Demonstration and Evaluation of a Modular Helical Fish Passage for Low-Head Applications (Kennewick, WA). This project will test the Stralkin Helix, a new approach to fish passage that uses a rotating helix with an open center and could greatly reduce costs over conventional fish passage technologies. When complete, the Stralkin Helix could provide a multi-species fish passage solution that is safer and more effective at moving fish up and downstream than current methods. (Award amount: $1,300,000) 
  • University of California, Davis’ Effects of White Sturgeon Passage Through a Novel Hydropower Turbine and Implications for Long-Term Survival (Davis, CA). This project will assess the ability of Natel Energy’s Restoration Hydro Turbine to enable safe turbine passage of White Sturgeon populations. This laboratory research will provide valuable information to turbine designers and operators and fish regulators to maximize renewable energy production and protect biodiversity. (Award amount: $875,000)  
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Novel D-Cylinder Fish Ladder Evaluation (Hadley, MA). Current designs for fish ladders, which help migrating fish pass over or around an obstacle, were created for salmon species decades ago on the U.S. Pacific Coast and have not been as successful for passage of East Coast species. This project will conduct research and development on the D-cylinder ladder, a new type of fish ladder that is designed to accommodate multiple species found in the East Coast rivers and reduce construction and maintenance costs. (Award amount: $758,517) 

These projects were selected as part of the Water Power Technologies Office’s Advancing Fish Passage and Protection Technologies funding opportunity. Learn more about this and other water power funding opportunities

Selection for award negotiations is not a commitment by DOE to issue an award or provide funding. Before funding is issued, DOE and the applicants will undergo a negotiation process, and DOE may cancel negotiations and rescind the selection for any reason during that time.