The hydro technology work group met several times during the summer and fall of 2008. The work group membership consisted of consulting engineers, resource managers, interested citizens, and AEA personnel. Assistance was provided in selecting the steps in the hydro resource screening and evaluation. The working group provided peer review and validation of preliminary screening results. Specific recommendations of the group included the following:
- Hydro projects do not lend themselves to utilization of unit cost factors in preparing estimates of capital cost; rather, site-specific analysis is required to arrive at optimal hydro development schemes and their associated capital costs.
- Where excess hydropower is available, fuel switching to electric home heating is likely to occur in communities with low-cost hydropower. This impact will substantially increase the power sales.
- The work group recommended a 50-year working life be used in economic evaluation of hydro facilities.
- Pumped storage hydro projects are not viable in Alaska at present, since the power rate structure currently used by utilities here offers no rate differential for peak versus off-peak generation; if possible this could be feasible for energy storage, should large wind farm generation be brought online in the future.
- Research is needed to discover ways to reduce intake icing conditions and integrate schemes for small hydro in village settings. Needed also are standardize plans for propeller and cross-flow turbine runners (to reduce manufacturing costs and promote use of materials such as composite blades and others not requiring extensive metal casting), to utilize heat recovery for heat load dumps used for hydro energy frequency regulation. Tests on coanada intake screens for cold weather hydro applications are needed, as are water conservation schemes for preservation of reservoir storage during frequency regulation. Standardized plans for small hydro applications such as intakes, powerhouse, induction plants, and tailraces are needing research. Alaska-friendly fish passage designs for in and out of a lake/reservoir, how best ways to provide for flushing flows and sediments to replenish spawning gravels in fish streams, optimal winter instream flow releases for traditional hydropower projects, and improved methods to predict snow melt and runoff for modeling reservoir operations
- The group recommended that prior hydro studies be made available online to promote future development opportunities.
- The group recommended working toward the establishment of a fair, efficient, and timely authorization permitting process for new hydropower projects, particularly for run-of the river hydros.
The future looks bright for hydropower development in Alaska. Hydroelectric projects produce power that is reliable, renewable and nonpolluting. Though they can be expensive to license and construct, hydroelectric facilities produce longterm dividends of power sales at some of the lowest cost rates available today. Hydropower rates are not subject to the price swings and escalation that fossil fuels experience. Careful project design can mitigate environmental impacts that are resolved during the licensing stage in collaboration with resource agency consultation.
Hydropower technology is mature and not subject to performance risks inherent with some of the new energy technologies that have yet to reach commercial-stage development. Alaska has abundant hydroelectric potential, especially in the Southcentral and Southeast portions of the state; other potential sites are available in the Aleutians, Southwest, and the Interior. Transmission of power from large hydro sites can be accomplished through grid interties to neighboring communities, thus displacing fossil fuel generation. Hydropower integrates well with wind power in community power systems. It has a strong future in retarding the advancement of global warming by reducing or displacing production of greenhouse gases from the electricity sector. The domestic energy security available from utilizing hydropower is unsurpassed and promotes the goal of energy independence.
In its latest World Energy Outlook published in November 2008, the International Energy Agency has requested decisive action to secure supplies of affordable, reliable energy and create an environmentally benign energy system. The development of hydroelectric facilities is a positive response to that call for action.
Earle Ausman, JC Barger, Todd Bethard, Bob Butera, Bryan Carey, Dave Carlson, Charlie Cobb, Bob Dryden, Jim Ferguson, Alan Fetters, Steve Gilbert, Bob Grimm, Joel Groves, Gwen Holdmann, Jan Konigsburg, Lenny Landis, David Lockard, John Magee, Nan Nalder, Doug Ott, Gary Prokosch, Chris Rose, Jim Strandberg, Charlie Walls, Dennis Witmer, and Eric Yould