climate change

Hydropower Relicensing and Climate Change

Source: 
JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN WATER RESOURCES ASSOCIATION
Volume: 
1-7
Year: 
2011
Abstract: 

Hydropower represents approximately 20% of the world’s energy supply, is viewed as both vulnerable to global climate warming and an asset to reduce climate altering emissions, and is increasingly the target of improved regulation to meet multiple ecosystem service benefits. It is within this context that the recent decision by the United States Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reject studies of climate change in its consideration of reoperation of the Yuba-Bear Drum-Spaulding hydroelectric facilities in northern California is shown to be poorly reasoned and risky. Given the rapidity of climate warming, and its anticipated impacts to natural and human communities, future long-term fixed licenses of hydropower operation will be ill prepared to adapt if science-based approaches to incorporating reasonable and foreseeable hydrologic changes into study plans are not included. The licensing of hydroelectricity generation can no longer be issued in isolation due to downstream contingencies such as domestic water use, irrigated agricultural production, ecosystem maintenance, and general socioeconomic well-being. At minimum, if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is to establish conditions of operation for 30-50 years, licensees should be required to anticipate changing climatic and hydrologic conditions for a similar period of time.

Author(s): 

Viers, Joshua H

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Estimated impacts of climate warming on California’s high-elevation hydropower

Source: 
Climatic Change
Year: 
2009
Abstract: 

California’s hydropower system is composed of high and low elevation power plants. There are more than 150 high-elevation power plants, at elevations above 1,000 feet (300 m). Most have modest reservoir storage capacities, but supply roughly 74% of California’s in-state hydropower. The expected shift of runoff peak from spring to winter due to climate warming, resulting in snowpack reduction and increased snowmelt, might have important effects on power generation and revenues in California. The large storage capacities at low-elevation power plants provide flexibility to operations of these units under climate warming. However, with climate warming, the adaptability of the high-elevation hydropower system is in question as this system was designed to take advantage of snowpack, a natural reservoir.With so many high-elevation hydropower plants in California, estimation of climate warming effects by conventional simulation or optimization methods would be tedious and expensive. An Energy-Based Hydropower Optimization Model (EBHOM) was developed to facilitate practical climate change and other low-resolution system-wide hydropower studies, based on the historical generation data of 137 high-elevation hydropower plants for which the data were complete for 14 years. Employing recent historical hourly energy prices, the model was used to explore energy generation in California for three climate warming scenarios (dry warming, wet warming, and warming-only) over 14 years, representing a range of hydrologic conditions. The system is sensitive to the quantity and timing of inflows. While dry warming and warming-only climate changes reduce average hydropower revenues, wet warming could increase revenue. Re-operation of available storage and generation capacities help compensate for snowpack losses to some extent. Storage capacity expansion and to a lesser extent generation capacity expansion both increase revenues, although such expansions might not be cost-effective. 

Author(s): 

Kaveh Madani, Jay R. Lund

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Adaptive Management in Hydropower Regulation

Source: 
Environmental Law Institute
Year: 
2009
Abstract: 

Hydropower dams play a critical role in the health of river ecosystems throughout the United States, and hundreds of these dams will be relicensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the coming years. Such licenses lock in the operating and environmental protection requirements of such dams for periods of up to 50 years. Given the complex, dynamic nature of river ecosystems, as well as the impacts of climate change, there is pervasive scientific uncertainty about how to best manage dams for power production while protecting and enhancing environmental values such as water quality and fisheries. Unless dams are managed adaptively, with licenses that provide pathways for gathering and applying new knowledge and responding to changing conditions, we run the risk of locking in mistaken approaches and stymieing environmental improvements on our rivers for the next half century. 

Author(s): 

Daniel Pollak 

Contact: 
Notes: 

Seasonal Streamflow Forecasting in the Columbia River Basin

Source: 
Waterpower XVi
Year: 
2009
Abstract: 

Climate and hydrologic fluctuations in the Pacific Northwest lead to large year-to-year variations in the strength of the Columbia River hydropower resource. We describe and present results from a seasonal hydrologic prediction system for the Columbia River basin that gives insight into the seasons-ahead behavior of this resource starting near the beginning of each water year. The forecast system is based on the real-time application of a state-of-the-science, macroscale hydrologic model coupled with ensemble climate forecasts. Estimates of initial land surface conditions, primarily in the form of snow water equivalent, are improved via the assimilation of snowpack observations, and forecast biases are reduced through statistical forecast calibration. The forecast system produces graphical forecast products designed to help water and energy managers understand the current state of the Columbia River basin, the climate outlook for the water year, and the implications of both for future streamflow. 

Author(s): 

Andy Wood, Matt Wiley, Bart Nijssen

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