I received an email from Genevieve Scholl-Erdmann in which she alerted me to a very useful report:
Her email read:
A newly published case study sponsored by the Bonneville Environmental Foundation and Energy Trust of Oregon takes a close look at hydropower generation occurring in pre-existing irrigation infrastructure. The study, authored by Hood River firm Farmers Conservation Alliance (FCA), examines the cumulative effects of small-scale hydropower generation by two irrigation districts on the Hood River watershed over the past 30 years.
The study states that, in Oregon, there are currently only 20 hydropower systems installed within irrigation water delivery systems. Characterizing FCA’s findings within the context of the broader public discourse on hydropower, study author Les Perkins states, “Within the category of small hydro, projects located within existing irrigation systems are of particular interest due to the opportunity to use an existing resource for an additional benefit.”
Energy Trust Program Manager Jed Jorgensen explains the impetus for the study:“Energy Trust is dedicated to helping utility customers benefit from saving energy and generating renewable energy. Hydropower projects utilizing irrigation district infrastructure have been a focus for Energy Trust because the projects can generate renewable energy while often creating other environmental benefits, such as putting water back in-stream for fish. Through this study, we are able to share the full range of benefits that can be experienced both by irrigation districts and the environment from irrigation hydro projects. This study will be a valuable resource for irrigation districts who are considering adding hydropower, as well as for natural resource agencies and other interested parties who need to evaluate the impacts of irrigation hydro.”
The study reports a measured positive impact on fish from these projects in the Hood River watershed, “…realized through the generation of nearly $90 million in revenue that funded infrastructure improvements leading to increased summer stream flows, installation of fish screens, removal of passage barriers, and increased collaboration within the watershed community.” The irrigation and hydropower generation systems of the Farmers Irrigation District (FID) and the Middle Fork Irrigation District (MFID) are both examined, with outcomes and impacts related to energy, water, watershed restoration, and the local economy provided in detail.
Oregon irrigation districts interested in evaluating their diversion sites and systems for off-stream hydropower generation potential can contact FCA’s Les Perkins at [email protected].
"What is relevant and common to all these cases is that they include existing conditions and infrastructure that would be present with or without a hydropower project.” - Les Perkins from the report, page 5