Hydropower refers to the generation of electricity through the natural force of water, most often through a hydroelectric dam. I support recognizing hydropower as an eligible renewable resource, a designation many say would help reduce energy costs to consumers.
Hydropower is the most abundant and least expensive source of energy that’s available in Washington. There is no waste, it doesn’t create hazardous bi-products, and electricity can be generated constantly, so it’s much more reliable than wind or solar. New technology has now introduced more effective turbines that we can retrofit our damns with and will lead to much higher efficiencies than we currently experience.
In order for the existing hydroelectric system to support all the new sources of energy, the region will have to build additional infrastructure and transmission lines to integrate this alternative energy into the grid and ensure regional electrical stability. Planning and construction could take five to 10 years and pass on considerable cost to consumers.
Other sources of energy such as wind and solar, are not cost competitive or as reliable as hydroelectric power According to the Foundation for Water and Energy Education, up to 80 percent of the electricity in the Northwest is produced by hydropower each year. That's enough electricity to meet the needs of 13.6 million homes.
By recognizing hydropower as a renewable resource, we could help stabilize energy prices for consumers, protect air and water quality, and make funds more available for construction of needed electrical grid infrastructure. Providing the most cost-effective sources of energy also would help get Washington working again.
HYDROELECTRIC POWER. The capability to produce and deliver electricity for widespread consumption was one of the most important factors in the surge of American economic influence and wealth in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century's. Hydroelectric power, among the first and simplest of the technologies that generated electricity, was initially developed using low dams of rock, timber, or granite block construction to collect water from rainfall and surface runoff into a reservoir. The water was funneled into a pipe (or pen-stock) and directed to a waterwheel (or turbine) where the force of the falling water on the turbine blades rotated the turbine and its main shaft. This shaft was connected to a generator, and the rotating generator produced electricity. One gallon (about 3.8 liters) of water falling 100 feet (about 30 meters) each second produced slightly more than 1,000 watts (or one kilowatt) of electricity, enough to power ten 100-watt light bulbs or a typical hairdryer.
Future Directions for the Hydroelectric Industry
The hydroelectric industry has been termed "mature" by some who charge that the technical and operational aspects of the industry have changed little in the past 60 years. Recent research initiatives counter this label by establishing new concepts for design and operation that show promise for the industry. A multi-year research project is presently testing new turbine designs and will recommend a final turbine blade configuration that will allow safe passage of more than 98 percent of the fish that are directed through the turbine. The DOE also recently identified more than 30 million kilowatts of untapped hydroelectric capacity that could be constructed with minimal environmental effects at existing dams that presently have no hydroelectric generating facilities, at existing hydroelectric projects with unused potential, and even at a number of sites without dams. Follow-up studies will assess the economic issues associated with this untapped hydroelectric resource. In addition, studies to estimate the hydroelectric potential of undeveloped, small capacity, dispersed sites that could supply electricity to adjacent areas without connecting to a regional electric transmission distribution system are proceeding. Preliminary results from these efforts have improved the visibility of hydroelectric power and provide indications that the hydroelectric power industry will be vibrant and important to the country throughout the next century.