Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What is Run-of-River Power Generation?‏

Hydro power projects using run-of-river technology are built on rivers that maintain a steady, consistent flow, either naturally or by storing water in a large reservoir at the head of the river, which provides a steady flow of water for power stations down-river.

Unlike traditional hydroelectric facilities, such as dams, run of river projects do not require damming of water. When large dams are built, the flow of the dammed river is radically changed and large areas of land are often flooded, including wildlife habitat and vegetation.

In run-of-the river projects, some water is diverted from the river, sent into an enclosed pipe-called a penstock-that delivers water to hydraulic turbines, located downhill. The natural force of gravity in a run of river project creates energy required to spin the turbines that generate electricity. Water leaves the generating station and returns to the river without altering existing flow or water levels.

The BC Hydro Clean Call aligns with the February 27, 2007 British Columbia Energy Plan, which indicates that at least 90% of all electricity generated in British Columbia must continue to come from renewable and clean sources. The act also expects the Province to achieve electricity self-sufficiency by 2016.

Run-of-river power generation offers long operational life-times for power plant in excess of 25 years with minimal maintenance. For smaller, grid-connected systems the payback time on original investment is often just a few years.

Another advantage to run-of-river power generation is that this green electricity generation is far more consistent than wind or solar power systems because electrical power can be generated 24 hours a day every day of the year.

Low or non-polluting, climate-friendly energy, must be a major component of any strategy to reduce the world's dependence upon fossil fuels and moving towards sustainable energy generation in the future. In order to be considered "green power" it must be generated using renewable resources and also have minimal impact on the surrounding environment.

Syntaris Power Corporation has developed three core projects for submission to the BC Hydro Clean Call for Power. These renewable energy projects represent a total estimated capacity of 104 Megawatts of electrical power. All three run-of-river projects offer easy access to the existing power transmission grid. By clustering its projects in a localized area, Syntaris can capture economies of scale with lower infrastructure and construction while leaving a minimal footprint on the environment.

Hydroelectricity can be very efficient and clean. Several technologies for converting the energy of moving water into electrical power are currently being used throughout the world. Hydroelectricity has been an important component of the energy systems throughout Canada and around the world for many years.

Syntaris Power Corporation has developed three core projects for submission to the BC Hydro Clean Call for Power. These renewable energy projects represent a total estimated capacity of 104 Megawatts of electrical power:


  1. Hello,

    You write that "run of river projects do not require damming of water."

    Unfortunately, this is not true. All hydroelectric projects use dams, including run of river projects. For public relation reasons, proponents are in the habit of calling them "weirs", but it is just another name for dam.

    Some run of river projects operate very large dams. For example, Plutonic Power, a large runnof river operator in British Columbia, is currently planning to build a dam that is 30 meters high.

    In many parts of the world, the term "run of river" is usually used for dams that have short term storage (less than one year). In British Columbia, that storage is typically 48 hours. The bottom line is that, whether the water is kept for 48 hours or 1 year, a dam is a dam.

    We are discovering in British Columbia that so-called “green” run of river projects are extremely damaging to our ecosystems, destroying hundreds of creeks and rivers (often fish bearing ones), bringing roads and construction and power lines and human activity to pristine wilderness areas, dumping tons of rubble into river beds, in some cases sucking the rivers dry – and yes, building dams.

    This is why a growing number of British Columbians are opposing run of river projects and calling for a moratorium.

    You also write that run of river projects are more consistent than other forms of energy production, “because electrical power can be generated 24 hours a day every day of the year”. Unfortunately, this is incorrect as well.

    Indeed, run-of-river electricity production peaks when rivers are at their highest, between the months of May and August. British Columbia's energy consumption, on the other hand, peaks between October and April. Since electricity cannot be stored, those river privatization projects are producing energy which British Columbians don't get to use.

    What happens to the excess energy? It is being directly exported to California during the summer months at market rate. That is why, according to the BC Utilities Commission, our Province was a net exporter – not importer – of energy in 2007.

    The problem with that clever export scheme is that California agrees with British Columbians that run-of-river power is not clean. According to a report ordered by California's Pacific gas and Electric Company in July 2008, BC's run of river power does not meet state rules because of their adverse impact on local rivers. That's why lobbyists are currently hard at work convincing California's legislature to amend their environmental regulations in a way that would “green” our dirty energy.

    Ivan Doumenc
    Vancouver, British Columbia

  2. Ivan,

    Thanks very much for the clarification. If anyone else wishes to comment on this issue, please feel free to leave a posting.

    In the spirit of "The Zeitgeist is Changing", we always invite people to write articles and to leave comments in response.

    In order for people to understand the real issues and to realise the stumbling blocks and the verbal and institutional 'smoke-screens' (as seems to be the case with this article) that obstruct the pathway to the changing zeitgeist, we need to open up the debate. Exposing such 'smoke-screens' is part of our responsibility.

    So Ivan, I really appreciate your comments and clarifications.

    Any further comments on the issue? Let's open up the debate!