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Hydropower plants and the environments through which they are deployed are extremely diverse, and significant knowledge gaps remain related to fish and wildlife biology, behavior, and interactions with hydropower facilities. There are also several critical limitations in instrumentation and monitoring tools and technologies to understand the environmental impacts of hydropower. Uncertainties about long-term hydrologic variations or extreme events and the associated operational and ecological impacts are of increasing concern within the industry. Scientific advances that allow developers and operators to more effectively identify and mitigate potential impacts ultimately allow for more effective utilization of existing hydropower and reduced regulatory costs.

Through its Environmental and Hydrologic Systems Science Activity Area, WPTO aims to address these challenges through the following approaches:

  • Improve monitoring technologies to study river systems and evaluate environmental impacts
  • Develop technologies and strategies to avoid, minimize, or mitigate environmental impacts
  • Support the development of metrics to better evaluate environmental sustainability for new hydropower developments
  • Assess potential impacts of long-term hydrologic variations to hydropower
  • Improve abilities to assess risk of potential methane emissions from reservoirs.

Featured Publications & Projects

National Labs Commercialize Environmental Evaluation Tools
Under the HydroPASSAGE project, PNNL and ORNL are providing new information that can be used to increase fish survival and lower operational costs.
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Analyzing Sensitive Species at Dams via Artificial Intelligence
The Electric Power Institute (EPRI) has successfully automated identification processes for young American eel tracked with multi-beam sonar.
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Acoustic Transmitter Improves Juvenile Fish Tracking and Analysis
PNNL has completed the development of new, highly miniaturized fish-tags, able to be quickly injected, even into tiny juvenile eel and lamprey.
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Collaborative Interagency Prize Solicits Solutions for Protecting Fish
In 2020, three winners were selected for the Fish Protection Prize, a competition soliciting ideas to protect fish from water infrastructure.
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Autonomous Oxygen Sensor Enables Safe, Timely Data Collection
In late 2019, PNNL’s new autonomous, mobile, water quality sensor platform was field-tested for the first time.
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Fish Protection Prize
Catalyzing new solutions, designs, and strategies to prevent fish from swimming into water infrastructure.
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HydroPASSAGE is focused on providing information and tools to increase fish survival through turbines and other hydropower structures across the U.S.
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Hydropower Memorandum of Understanding 2020
The MOU and resulting action plan will detail overarching topics to increase sustainable hydropower generation and flexibility.
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EERE Success Story—DOE investments in turbine and monitoring technology research help hydropower dams improve water quality
In late 2019, the DOE’s Water Technologies Office (WPTO) gathered with stakeholders to improve generation and environmental performance of the recentl
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Energy Department Renews Commitment to Collaboration on Hydropower Research and Development with Norway
Energy Department and Norway’s Royal Ministry of Petroleum and Energy renew commitment to collaborate closely on hydropower research and development.
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Four New Projects Selected in Latest Round of the Technology Commercialization Fund
DOE's Office of Technology Transitions announced the 2020 selections in the latest round of the Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF).
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Testing New Turbines Goes Swimmingly with Sensor Fish
PNNL study shows new turbine blade design means good news for fish.
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EPAct 2005 Section 242 Hydro Incentive Program
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) gives notice of updated guidance for the Energy Policy Act of 2005 program.
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