Hydropower

NOAA

Regional power managers are meeting in Portland this week. One issue they're looking at is how drought conditions across the Northwest may affect the region's supply of hydropower.

Water supply forecasts are looking bleak for many Northwest rivers this year. Snowpack levels in many areas are far below average, and they're not likely to improve.

John Fazio is a power systems analyst for the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. He said that will mean less water in rivers and less hydropower.

Portland Now Generating Hydropower In Its Water Pipes

Jan 21, 2015
Daniel Kulinski / Flickr

A Portland start-up is tapping a new source of renewable power inside the city's water pipes. The new system uses the power of gravity in the city's water pipes.

Lucid Energy has installed four small hydroelectric generators in a pipe that carries drinking water to the city. They will produce enough electricity to power 150 homes.

Company CEO Gregg Semler says this kind of hydropower doesn't disrupt fish or natural stream flows the way dams do. And it supplies a continuous source of renewable energy unlike wind and solar.

Wikimedia Commons

Chances are your utility bill has gone up this year. One small part of the reason may be that you’re paying for electricity that was never generated. From Jefferson Public Radio, Liam Moriarty takes a look at how Northwest electricity customers got saddled with more than $2.5 million in payments for power they didn’t use.

Joe Nicora / Flickr

If the Northwest continues to operate dams as it does now, the region could be left with 20 percent less hydropower by 2080.

The American negotiating position became clearer Friday in what promises to be difficult bargaining to update a water treaty with Canada.

Here's a little known fact that may affect your power bill: Every year, public utilities in the Northwest give British Columbia several hundred million dollars worth of electricity. That's to compensate Canada for managing the upper Columbia River to minimize flooding and maximize hydropower downstream.

Americans are pushing for a better deal, but the B.C. government is preparing to defend what's now considered an entitlement.

Snohomish County PUD

An effort to streamline the regulatory process for small hydropower dams is generating a rare moment of bipartisanship in Congress. Two bills sailed through a Senate committee Wednesday. They've already passed the House. Correspondent Jessica Robinson has more.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

The Bonneville Power Administration’s long-serving chief is stepping down. Steve Wright was the acting BPA administrator in 2000, when the western U.S. was struggling with an energy crisis. He served as permanent head for a decade and now says he’s retiring in January.

Courtesy of Riverbank Power

If you thought the great dam building era of the Northwest was long over, you might be mistaken. But we're not talking about damming rivers here. This is about building long earthen dams to make new off-stream hydropower reservoirs. They're being designed to act as giant batteries and shock absorbers for the electric grid. Correspondent Tom Banse explains.

Photo by Ashley Ahearn / Northwest News Network

SKYKOMISH RIVER, Wash. -- The Skykomish is one of the only major rivers in Washington that has not been dammed for hydropower. The river runs from the Cascade Mountains and empties into Northern Puget Sound. It’s a hot spot for wildlife and outdoor recreation. It could also be a hotspot for hydropower. Ashley Ahearn reports.