Volume 5 Issue 4 April

The Critical Role of Reliable Hydropower

By Kris Polly

At times, hydropower does not get the credit it deserves, overshadowed by popular technologies such as wind and solar. But as anyone who is familiar with the grid can tell you, hydropower already provides major portions of our nation’s energy needs and is foundational for the integration of new green energy resources.

In our cover story this month, we are pleased to interview John Hairston, the CEO and administrator of Bonneville Power Administration, which markets power from a federal fleet that provides nearly 30 percent of all electrical power in the Pacific Northwest. We speak about the critical role that reliable, zero-carbon hydropower plays in integrating variable renewable resources and responding to challenging conditions such as the January 2024 cold snap. We also discuss other top issues, such as the Columbia River Treaty and electrification.

Duke Energy’s Bad Creek Pumped Storage Project in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains came online in 1991 with a capacity of 1,400 megawatts (MW), and during a recent refurbishment, its total output was increased by 320 MW. Now, with its license expiring in 2027, Duke is considering adding a second powerhouse with variable-speed generators. Preston Pierce, the general manager of Duke Energy’s hydro operations in the west region, tells us more.

Mike Dupuis founded Hydro Tech in 2001 to provide a complete turnkey solution for complex upgrades and maintenance projects. He tells us about the company’s growth since then and the impressive projects it has engaged in.

Next, we speak with Doug Hartsock, the hydro applications engineer for valve manufacturer DeZURIK, about the company’s various products for the hydropower industry.

Then, we talk to Francisco Kuljevan, the team lead of the Hydropower Generation program at the independent energy research and development institute EPRI, about the program’s core programs and its work supporting hydro as it enables flexibility and reliability during the energy transition.

Finally, we speak with George Caan, who recently retired as the executive director of the Washington Public Utility District Association and also spent significant time working in the Colorado basin. Mr. Caan saw repeated challenges to hydropower dams in both locations and has important insights to share with our readers about the threats to dams that may come soon to other basins across the nation.

As this month’s stories demonstrate, hydro provides important flexibility and reliability to the grid, characteristics that are only becoming more important as our energy mix changes and shifts toward renewables. I salute the professionals who are working to maintain and advance our industry in this crucial mission.

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.