skip to main content

Title: Salmon vs. Power: Dam removal and power supply adequacy
Dam removal is gaining both support and resistance in different communities and political circles in the Pacific Northwest of the United States; given its sensitive environmental and economic consequences. The Columbia River Basin (CRB) offers a unique opportunity to examine to what extent the replacement of hydroelectric dams affects reliability and adequacy of the power system given long-standing proposals to remove the four Lower Snake River dams to improve the survival of the endangered salmon species. Key results show that replacing the four dams leads to an inadequate energy supply necessitating the need for more capacity to satisfy requirements. Although the four dams have higher nameplate capacity, they provide a much lower effective capacity. Thus, the debate about removing dams should be an opportunity for CRB managers to consider investment options in new ecosystem services and energy solutions that maintain adequate performance.
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
IEEE Engineering Management Review
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
1 to 1
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. The nexus of food, energy, and water systems offers a meaningful lens to evaluate hydroelectric dam removal decisions. Maintaining adequate power supplies and flourishing fish populations hangs on the balance of managing the tradeoffs of water resource management. Aside from energy adequacy, substituting hydropower with other renewable energy sources impacts the overall energy dispatch behavior of the grid, including emissions of existing fossil fuels. This study extends earlier work in the literature to evaluate the adequacy impact to the power supply by removing four Lower Snake River dams in the Columbia River Basin in favor of supporting migratory salmon populations.more »The authors explore the climate performance, i.e., fossil fuel dispatch changes, of simulated renewable substitution portfolios to supplement performance metrics alongside adequacy and initial investment metrics. The study finds that including the climate metric greatly influences the favorability of some alternative portfolios that would otherwise be overlooked, with some portfolios improving climate mitigation efforts by reducing emissions over the baseline scenario. The contribution is in advancing a straightforward and supplementary climate performance method that can accompany any energy portfolio analysis.« less
  2. Hydropower has been the leading source of renewable energy across the world, accounting for up to 71% of this supply as of 2016. This capacity was built up in North America and Europe between 1920 and 1970 when thousands of dams were built. Big dams stopped being built in developed nations, because the best sites for dams were already developed and environmental and social concerns made the costs unacceptable. Nowadays, more dams are being removed in North America and Europe than are being built. The hydropower industry moved to building dams in the developing world and since the 1970s, beganmore »to build even larger hydropower dams along the Mekong River Basin, the Amazon River Basin, and the Congo River Basin. The same problems are being repeated: disrupting river ecology, deforestation, losing aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity, releasing substantial greenhouse gases, displacing thousands of people, and altering people’s livelihoods plus affecting the food systems, water quality, and agriculture near them. This paper studies the proliferation of large dams in developing countries and the importance of incorporating climate change into considerations of whether to build a dam along with some of the governance and compensation challenges. We also examine the overestimation of benefits and underestimation of costs along with changes that are needed to address the legitimate social and environmental concerns of people living in areas where dams are planned. Finally, we propose innovative solutions that can move hydropower toward sustainable practices together with solar, wind, and other renewable sources.« less
  3. In Mekong riparian countries, hydropower development provides energy, but also threatens biodiversity, ecosystems, food security, and an unparalleled freshwater fishery. The Sekong, Sesan, and Srepok Rivers (3S Basin) are major tributaries to the Lower Mekong River (LMB), making up 10% of the Mekong watershed but supporting nearly 40% of the fish species of the LMB. Forty-five dams have been built, are under construction, or are planned in the 3S Basin. We completed a meta-analysis of aquatic and riparian environmental losses from current, planned, and proposed hydropower dams in the 3S and LMB using 46 papers and reports from the pastmore »three decades. Proposed mainstem Stung Treng and Sambor dams were not included in our analysis because Cambodia recently announced a moratorium on mainstem Mekong River dams. More than 50% of studies evaluated hydrologic change from dam development, 33% quantified sediment alteration, and 30% estimated fish production changes. Freshwater fish diversity, non-fish species, primary production, trophic ecology, and nutrient loading objectives were less commonly studied. We visualized human and environmental tradeoffs of 3S dams from the reviewed papers. Overall, Lower Sesan 2, the proposed Sekong Dam, and planned Lower Srepok 3A and Lower Sesan 3 have considerable environmental impacts. Tradeoff analyses should include environmental objectives by representing organisms, habitats, and ecosystems to quantify environmental costs of dam development and maintain the biodiversity and extraordinary freshwater fishery of the LMB.« less
  4. Catastrophic release of heavy metals from the King River mine in Colorado and the Minas Gerais dam in Brazil have brought to the forefront the importance of contaminant stabilization and remediation in surface waters. Permeable reactive materials are currently utilized for the remediation of heavy metals and other pollutants by employing reactive media to remove contaminants. This research investigated the use of fly ashes with loss on ignition or sulfur trioxide exceeding ASTM C618 limits to enhance pollutant removal in pervious concrete. The high carbon and sulfur contents of the noncompliant fly ashes provide additional capacity to remove lead, cadmium,more »and zinc. High-sulfur and high-carbon fly ashes were less effective in metal removal at higher metal concentrations but improved removal at lower concentrations. These results suggest pervious concrete can be designed as an effective remedial technique for use in many infrastructure applications, including beneath permeable pavement, permeable asphalt, revetment, permeable shoulders, gabions for slope stability, mine tailing dams, and emergency surface water cleanup.« less
  5. The current resurgence of hydropower expansion toward tropical areas has been largely based on run-of-the-river (ROR) dams, which are claimed to have lower environmental impacts due to their smaller reservoirs. The Belo Monte dam was built in Eastern Amazonia and holds the largest installed capacity among ROR power plants worldwide. Here, we show that postdamming greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the Belo Monte area are up to three times higher than preimpoundment fluxes and equivalent to about 15 to 55 kg CO 2 eq MWh −1 . Since per-area emissions in Amazonian reservoirs are significantly higher than global averages, reducingmore »flooded areas and prioritizing the power density of hydropower plants seem to effectively reduce their carbon footprints. Nevertheless, total GHG emissions are substantial even from this leading-edge ROR power plant. This argues in favor of avoiding hydropower expansion in Amazonia regardless of the reservoir type.« less