Efficiency and Environmental Friendliness

By Kris Polly

One stereotype about hydropower holds that it deals with nothing more than massive, river-spanning dams with detrimental environmental effects. While large dams are certainly important (e.g., they protect downstream populations from floods), hydropower in the 21st century is making advances in efficiency and environmental friendliness in many fields. Our cover story with Juliann Blanford, the general manager of modular small hydro manufacturer NuSTREEM, highlights one of those advances. NuSTREEM’s new NuTECH controller uses new-to-industry control algorithms to improve the performance and efficiency of existing turbines. 

Hydro is also important for the integration of intermittent renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar power, into the grid. Cat Creek Energy & Water (CCEW) aims to build a major pumped storage and renewable energy generation project near Boise, Idaho. We interview Peggy Beltrone, CCEW’s public policy advisor, on this visionary project. 

In Niagara Falls, Ontario, the historic Rankin Generating Station is being transformed into a tourist attraction that will feature educational and interpretative features as well as much of the plant’s original hardware. Kim Viney, Niagara Parks’ senior director of business development, and Marcello Gruosso, the senior director of engineering, tell us more. 

As the founder and managing partner of investment fund Oval Park Capital, Justin Wright‑Eakes is on the lookout for water tech companies that can provide strong financial returns while also solving the critical issues facing humanity. He tells us about his investment strategy and his initial investment into water tech firms Emrgy and Nala. 

A coalition of a dozen environmental, scientific, and hydropower industry groups, including the National Hydropower Association (NHA), has recently drawn up a $63 billion infrastructure spending proposal for Congress and the Biden administration. Zolaikha Strong, the NHA’s vice president of government affairs, gives us the details of the proposal. 

Finally, Colorado has just enacted a law that designates certain pumped hydropower generation as renewable under state energy standards. We interview State Representative Hugh McKean, who sponsored the bill, about this important shift. 

Efficiency-boosting software, modular small hydro units, and pumped storage are great examples of how hydropower is becoming more efficient and environmentally friendly, and Colorado’s new law is a beneficial recognition of that fact. We can hope that more legislators follow its lead. 

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Hydro Leader magazine and the president and CEO of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at kris.polly@waterstrategies.com.