Biological Evaluation of the Whooshh Fish Transport System
Hydroelectric dams can provide clean, baseload power to many regions of the country. But the dams also create barriers that can block or hinder the migration of fishes through rivers. Currently, the industry relies on fish ladders, fish elevators and trap and haul programs to move fish. These methods all have high capital, efficiency and operating costs.
Requirements for fish passage are becoming increasingly important in relicensing existing hydro facilities and in the development of new projects, especially as utilities and other companies work to meet national energy and climate needs. Whooshh Innovations has developed a novel solution to safely transport live fish over and around barriers. The Whooshh Fish Transport System (WFTS) uses localized pressure differentials to gently push fish through a soft flexible tube lubricated with a light water mist. The company's system is modular and designed to provide options for a variety of dam configurations and river systems.
The critical technical challenge in commercializing the technology is in-river validation and performance testing on species protected under the Endangered Species Act. Regulatory agencies have asked Whooshh to validate and measure successful in-river passage compared to traditional fish passage methods. As part of the SBV Pilot, the company will work with biologists and other technical experts at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to validate the technology. Successful testing would result in the system being upgraded from an experimental option to an accepted passage alternative approved for transport of all target species.
PROJECT INNOVATION + ADVANTAGES
The transport system is a novel approach to fish passage and is unlike any currently used method. It differentiates itself from other fish passage technologies by not requiring large amounts of water, manpower, or capital costs. Whooshh estimates that commercializing the WFTS will have a substantial impact in the marketplace in terms of reducing costs for hydropower. Additionally, WFTS can be deployed in months, while typical fish ladder designs involve multi-year implementation timeframes. The WFTS also reduces water needs and would make up to 10 percent more water available to the hydropower facilities enabling them. Furthermore, the flexible tube, small footprint, and modular design allows for custom installation at a variety of dam configuration and river systems.
Improved fish passage options at hydroelectric facilities can help reduce negative environmental impacts on river ecosystems. Reducing the amount of water needed to transport fish can also give hydropower operators more flexibility with managing water resources, including for power and for agricultural, commercial and residential use.
Hydropower provides about six percent of U.S. electricity production and is expected to grow as the United States comes to rely more on clean energy sources, including by expanding current hydropower facilities and creating new hydropower facilities along smaller water systems.
Baseload clean power systems, including those that rely on hydropower, can give grid operators more flexibility in managing power supplies, fostering a more reliable and resilient electricity system.
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