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A closer look at the Northwest hydro system



Pacific Northwest National Laboratory brought together public and private utilities, technology vendors and research institutions from across the Northwest to gather insight into challenges and opportunities for the region's power grid.

The group helped set the research agenda for the Electricity Infrastructure Operations Initiative, including identifying a desire to better manage the Northwest hydropower system. "You can't treat individual dams like separate power plants," said Rob Pratt, initiative leader at PNNL. "We have an asset that's complicated to operate and fully subscribed, given constraints in place for international treaties, fish, irrigation, transportation and recreation."

As a result of the group's input, PNNL is investing in projects designed to squeeze more out of the hydro system by improving forecasts of snowpack and runoff and developing water management tools. Probability-based forecasts and advanced optimization techniques can bring management of the hydropower system closer to real time.

"We think we can save more fish and get more power from the system by understanding the opportunities better," Pratt said.

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