Feasibility of Integrating Low-Head Hydropower with Effective Canal Management

Project ID: 7973
Principal Investigator: Josh Mortensen
Research Topic: Improved Power Generation
Funded Fiscal Years: 2013
Keywords: None

Research Question

The main objective of this research is to determine if low-head hydropower operation can be feasibly integrated into a canal management scheme that effectively responds to fluctuating demands for water delivery.

Effective canal operation continues to be challenging as water accountability tightens and water demands fluctuate on a daily basis. Operation may become even more complex when low-head hydropower structures are added to the system. While there is significant potential for additional energy from Reclamation canals, (as recently reported in Reclamation's "Site Inventory and Hydropower Energy Assessment of Reclamation Owned Conduits") effective integration of low head hydropower facilities and primary water delivery requires further analysis.

This study will use Reclamation's Gila Gravity Main Canal (GGMC) in the Lower Colorado Region as a case study to look at conjunctive use of hydropower and water delivery. This canal is an ideal site for this type of study because it is a typical canal that has additional hydraulic energy that could potentially be used for hydropower (see Table 7, "Site Inventory and Hydropower Energy Assessment of Reclamation Owned Conduits"). The physical canal system will be used in conjunction with physical hydrokinetic generation units and computer modeling tools to test various scenarios of canal operation.

The objective of this research is to determine the operational feasibility of using low-head hydropower generation in conjunction with routine canal operation of water conveyance and distribution.

Need and Benefit

Several canal systems throughout Reclamation have hydropower potential. However this potential will never be reached if the primary objective of delivering water is compromised as a result. Low-head hydropower on water conveyance systems is a relatively new field and while many new technologies are being developed their impact on the performance of the overall system is still vague. Results from a full scale physical canal system combined with a numerical model will help answer many questions regarding the feasibility of low-head hydropower generation on water delivery systems.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Hydrokinetic Demonstration Results to Date and Path Forward (final, PDF, 619KB)
By Josh Mortensen
Publication completed on September 30, 2014

This bulletin summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.

Hydrokinetic Impact Study Update - 2013 (final, PDF, 3.2MB)
By Josh Mortensen
Report completed on November 25, 2014

Hydrokinetic power generation is currently receiving much attention for use in in-land open channel water ways. While this technology has potential for renewable energy, its impacts to the hydraulic operation of existing water ways are unknown. This study investigates these impacts to help determine if conjunctive use of hydrokinetics and existing water delivery is feasible.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20