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Report available on state of Corps infrastructure

Hydropower revenues could be increased by improving efficiency of the turbine systems used in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hydro projects. This is one finding of a recent report: Corps of Engineers Water Resources Infrastructure: Deterioration, Investment, or Divestment?

This report, currently in the prepublication stage, explores the status of operations, maintenance and rehabilitation of Corps water resources infrastructure and identifies options for the Corps and the U.S. in setting maintenance and rehab priorities.

The report says total generation from Corps hydro projects decreased by 16% from 2000 to 2008. By contrast, the Tennessee Valley Authority increased hydropower generation 34% with the same water availability through efficiency improvements in the 1980s and early 1990s. This suggests that at least a 20% improvement would be obtainable with current water flows and would provide significant new revenue, the report says.

The Corps owns water management infrastructure that includes about 700 dams, 14,000 miles of levees, 12,000 miles of river navigation channels and control structures, and harbors and ports. In the past, construction of new infrastructure dominated the Corps' water resources budget and activities, but today national water needs and priorities are shifting to operations, maintenance and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure. However, federal funding for new project construction and major rehabilitation has declined steadily since the mid-1980s, meaning much of this infrastructure is deteriorating and wearing out faster than it is being replaced.

The report identifies six paths that might be taken with regard to Corps infrastructure:

- Business as usual, which entails increased frequency of infrastructure failure and negative social, economic and public safety consequences;

- Increase federal funding for operations, maintenance and rehabilitation;

- Divest or decommission parts of the Corps infrastructure to focus available funding on the highest-priority operations, maintenance and rehabilitation needs;

- Increase revenues from Corps project beneficiaries by expanding revenue capture, especially for inland navigation and hydropower projects;

- Expand partnerships, especially for those components of the water infrastructure that involve shared responsibilities and activities with private entities; and

- Some combination of options two through five.

The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the governing board of the National Research Council. NRC was organized by the National Academy of Sciences, which is publishing this report.

- Portions of the report are at www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13508. The final copy can be ordered for $32.40.

Corps to install spillway weir at 810-MW Lower Granite

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is advancing work to install an additional spillway weir to improve salmon passage at 810-MW Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River in Washington.

This additional spillway weir is needed to improve out-migrating fish passage by raising the crest elevation of the spillway. The 180- to 230-ton steel structure will allow juvenile salmon and steelhead to pass the dam near the water surface under lower acceleration and lower pressure than conventional spillway openings. The weir is to incorporate a mechanical method to adjust the height of the weir crest, allowing a variable discharge rate.

ACORE report shows hydropower impact state-by-state

The American Council on Renewable Energy has published a state-by-state survey of renewable energy resources, including the impact hydropower has in terms of capacity and generation.

The free report, titled "Renewable Energy in the 50 States," utilizes data from the previous year to provide a highlight of renewable energy in each state. Designed as an online tool rather than a static paper, the report will be updated regularly and new work in the industry will be added, ACORE says.

According to the report, the state leading in hydropower electricity generation is Washington, with capacity of 20,864 MW. In addition to a wide range of conventional, small and tidal projects, the state ranks 10th in the U.S. for availability of clean energy jobs, due in part to state incentives for utilities and manufacturers.

Each state's "Policies" section provides an overview of what is in place to encourage and support hydro development and operation. For example, South Carolina provides a corporate or personal tax credit for 25% of purchasing and operating costs for small hydro systems.

The report also demonstrated that the industry is growing and new sites are being developed. In Alaska, which boasts a 420-MW capacity, the report says a 600-MW, US$5.4 billion project is under way that will provide power to meet half of the Rainbelt region's needs when complete in 2023. The completed project, on the Susitna River, will significantly contribute to the state's goal of utilizing 50% renewable energy by 2025.

Released annually, the 2012 edition shows that the total installed capacity of energy from renewable sources exceeded 145 GW, with 78.19 GW from hydropower. Growth was widespread for the sector throughout the states, including significant rehab and facility improvement work in the Northeast.

According to the report, state initiatives have played a significant role in supporting the development of renewable energy resources because of the congressional deadlock. ACORE intends the report to demonstrate the importance and untapped potential of renewable resources and their use for electricity generation in the U.S., while providing a snapshot of the value of the sector.

ACORE is a non-profit membership organization that promotes clean renewable energy.

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