Hydropower: Affordable, Reliable, Vital
Hydro generation is 100% efficient. Because of that, it’s also one of the most inexpensive ways to generate electricity. It’s not a coincidence that utilities in the Pacific Northwest (and WREC) are able to offer some of the lowest rates in the country.
Hydropower is the only form of renewable baseload electricity generation. Hydro dams produce a constant, consistent baseload around the clock and can be ramped up or down very quickly to work alongside intermittent production.
Hydro is a clean energy. With our nation’s stated goals to reach zero carbon emissions by 2035, the hydro dams’ ability to provide a carbon-free baseload is an essential, foundational part of any path to zero emissions.
This term refers to sources of electricity that are available to generate 24/7.
Hydropower is the only renewable energy source that can provide baseload generation!
Wind and solar are renewable and carbon-free, but they are intermittent, not baseload — they can’t support the grid when the sun’s not shining and the wind’s not blowing.
Natural gas and coal are baseload generators but produce carbon as a byproduct, which is bad for the environment.
Nuclear and hydropower are both carbon-free baseload generation.
The turmoil around the dams on the Lower Snake River revolves around salmon populations. However, with the installation of fish ladders and passages, salmon survival at the dams exceeds 99%. While the dams have been oft-vilified, research shows that warming ocean conditions and the resulting predation in the ocean present the largest threat to salmon populations.
Lower Snake River Dams
The four dams produce over 1,000 MW annually on average, enough to power more than 800,000 homes, with a maximum capacity of over 3,000 MW.
Fish ladders were built to assist salmon in their migration upstream. A series of gates and chambers help facilitate migration patterns so they aren’t stopped by the barrier of the dam. Some fish could not swim in the dark, so lights had to be installed that would essentially mimic sunlight. Fish survival at the dams is between 95% and 98%.
It is someone’s job to sit at the fish counter’s booth to manually count the number of fish passing through the dam. During peak salmon runs, the fish counter may see between 10,000 to 20,000 fish pass in an hour.