Students see inside hydropower operations

A group of students look past the camera to the power dispatch center

Twenty-three fellows participating in the Hydro Research Foundation Program take an inside look at power system operations at Western’s Sierra Nevada office in Folsom, Calif.

Understanding how water held behind large dams is converted to usable electricity for homes and business can be explained in many ways, but seeing the process in action can make all the difference.

Twenty-three students under the Hydro Research Foundation’s Fellowship program did just that July 18. As part of their week-long Hydro Vision International conference focused on “Clean Energy,” these fellows took a tour of Western Area Power Administration’s Sierra Nevada power dispatch center in California, as well as Bureau of Reclamation’s Folsom Dam and Reservoir. Employees from both agencies briefed participants on water, hydropower and power system and transmission operations.

Hydro Research Foundation Program Director Deborah Linke, a former Western employee, led the tour. Linke said, “The fellows are really neat—they’re bright, full of energy and have lots of good ideas.”

Hydro Research Foundation’s Fellows program, funded by a $3 million Department of Energy grant, encourages participants to seek advanced knowledge about hydroelectric technology, including ways to make it more efficient and limit the environmental impacts.

Learn more about hydropower
While not everyone has the time and energy to tour facilities to understand how hydropower works, reading about how it’s created and gets to your home can be very helpful. Western’s Harnessing Hydropower brochure (pdf) offers an overview of how generating agencies—like the Bureau of Reclamation—capture the energy of this natural resource that Western then markets to your local towns, cooperatives, public utilities and others that continue to power your computers, appliances and lights in your home or business.

Glen Canyon Dam study to help develop long-term operation plan

There are many competing needs in a river system for water. From farming irrigation and recreational activities (like boating and fishing) to environmental protection and hydropower production, these needs can be hard to prioritize and manage.

 To address operations on the Colorado River, the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Park Service and Bureau of Reclamation are developing a new Long-Term Experimental and Management Plan for Glen Canyon Dam.

 As part of the development process, the agencies will co-lead a draft environmental impact statement and public scoping process to evaluate operation alternatives and receive public comments, respectively.

Impact on hydropower production

The resulting plan could change hydropower generation output, which is marketed by Western’s Colorado River Storage Project Management Center, and possibly implement a Recovery Implementation Program for endangered fish species below Glen Canyon Dam.

According to a notice of intent in the July 6 Federal Register, the comprehensive review of dam operations – the first since 1995 – “will provide a framework for adaptively managing Glen Canyon Dam over the next 15 to 20 years consistent with the [Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992] and other provisions of applicable Federal law.”

“We need to make use of the latest science to develop and implement a structured, long-term management plan for the Glen Canyon Dam that adheres to the Law of the River, respects the interests of the tribal nations, and sustains the health of the Grand Canyon and the communities that depend on its water, consistent with the Grand Canyon Protection Act,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in a July 5 press release.

Between the dam’s completion in 1963 and 1990, dam operations strove to maximize hydropower generation. However, increasing environmental concerns of dam operations on downstream resources prompted the government to pass the GCPA, which directed DOI to conduct a study to minimize the impact of dam operations.

Following the study, a Record of Decision Oct. 9, 1996 from the Bureau implemented the current Modified Low Fluctuating Flow Alternative used today at the dam. In 1997, the Secretary of Interior adopted operating criteria for Glen Canyon Dam (62 FR 9447).

Photo of the day

Western employees on the job

Rocky Mountain Electronic Equipement Craftsman Foreman II makes the fiber connections to a new 25 MVS transformeA Western Electronic Equipment Foreman in the Rocky Mountain Region makes a fiber connection to a new 25 megavolt-ampere transformer that was installed in April 2010.

Western employees work 24/7 to keep electric power flowing across the West. Without dedicated employees like this we’d be left in the dark.

Revising resource planning

Western is requesting comments on the proposed evaluation criteria and procedures that it will use for future Integrated Resource Planning acquisitions. The current principle, established in 1995, calls for developing project-by-project acquisition and transmission planning. This action would create standardized Western-wide evaluation criteria for IRP principles.

Western is also proposing to eliminate the transmission planning principles in the Federal Register notice.

Public meeting scheduled

Western will hold a public meeting to solicit input on Western’s revision to the Final Principles of IRP for Use in Resource Acquisition and Transmission Planning July 21 at, 8:30 a.m., MDT, in Lakewood, Colo. The meeting will also be available by conference call and webcast.

The meeting will address the new proposed evaluation criteria and procedures Western will use for long-term resource acquisition, as well as the intent to eliminate transmission planning principles.

Send comments

You can send written comments about Western’s proposed IRP revision to:

Julia L. Kyriss
Colorado River Storage Project Manager
CRSP Management Center
150 East Social Hall Avenue
Suite 300, Salt Lake City, Utah 84111–1580

Comments may also be e-mailed to or faxed to 801-524–5017.

For more information about the request for comments and the 1995 principles for IRPs, see the June 29 Federal Register notice. You may also call Paula Fronk at 801-524–6383.