During the National Hydropower Association’s conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, I interviewed a veteran in the hydro business, Mike Murphy. Mike, a principal at TRC Solutions, is past president of NHA and the volunteer chairman of the Water Resources Track for the HydroVision International conference.
In the interview (which, by the way, is featured on the HydroWorld.com video gallery!), Mike’s passion for hydro is clear. Even though hydropower was not something he studied in school or intentionally pursued as a career, he finds working in the industry to be personally and professionally rewarding. He told me he likes it so much that he named his dog Hydro!
After interviewing Mike, I began reflecting on similar stories I’ve heard from hydro professionals, people who see working in hydro as more than a job; for them, it’s a passion.
For instance, take Dr. Kristina Johnson, former under secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy. She’s left public service to start a new private sector company, Enduring Energy LLC, which is working to grow and develop additional hydropower in the U.S. Dr. Johnson has a passion for hydro. Her grandfather was head of engineering at Westinghouse, where he helped lay the groundwork for U.S. hydro plants.
Or, how about hydropower veteran Bob Barksdale, who is bringing several grandchildren — ages 12 to 21 — to HydroVision International to expose them to hydro engineering? Bob’s grandchildren have visited dozens of hydro projects, many of which Bob, his father, uncles, and grandfather worked on over the years.
Why such passion for hydro? I’m sure you each have opinions about the answer to this question. For me, three stand out:
1. Electricity generated from hydropower is inexpensive.
Hydro is the lowest-cost method of generating power. In these times of high fuel prices, companies are keenly aware of this fact when making business decisions. At the upcoming Hydro Vision International event, Joerg Pohlman of SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers LLC, a BMW Group and SGL Group Joint Venture, will describe why availability to inexpensive hydroelectricity was a prime driver for his company to build a carbon fibers factory in Moses Lake, Wash.
2. Hydro projects are long-lasting.
Hydro Review maintains a Hydro Hall of Fame, of which 27 projects in Canada and the U.S. are members. Plants in the Hall of Fame have operated for 100 years or more and show no signs of slowing down! This summer, in Sacramento, Calif., at the conclusion of HydroVision, we’ll unveil the 2011 inductees. Please join us for this celebration of hydro’s long-lasting attributes.
3. Hydro provides a multitude of benefits beyond generating power.
Hydro projects offer much more than power generation. What other method of generating electricity also creates opportunities for boating, whitewater rafting, kayaking, water skiing, fishing, camping, hiking, biking and picnicking? Hydro is a workhorse, providing water for human consumption, recreation and irrigation, all the while generating clean, inexpensive electricity.
I realize I’m “preaching to the choir.” If you’re reading Hydro Review, you already know there’s much to be passionate about. But, not everybody does. I was struck recently at a power industry meeting when a young man, working for a prominent hydro company, said he viewed hydro as a “stepchild” in the power industry. I intend to share this column — and my passion for hydro — with him. Won’t you do the same with others?
Marla J Barnes
Publisher and Chief Editor