Environmental and Ecological Impacts

  • Conventional Hydropower
    • Successful Turbine Passage for Migratory Fish - Better characterization of causes of injury/mortality during turbine passage; Predictions of injury/mortality among untested fish species; Development and experimental verification of models to predict turbine passage survival for different species, turbine designs, and operating conditions. In 2011, forty resource managers and practitioners with expertise and interest in advancing the state of knowledge related to sturgeon and fish passage at hydroelectric dam facilities participated in a workshop sponsored by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust. It was designed to be particularly helpful for fisheries managers and utility representatives looking to transfer knowledge, identify existing gaps, and learn new information related to fish passage on non-jumping fish with an emphasis on lake sturgeon. In addition, the workshop was designed to advance development of a research framework to help the Trust, other funding organizations, and industry identify and establish collaborative funding priorities to achieve successful sturgeon passage (and other non-jumping fish) in the Great Lakes basin.  For more information please see the proceedings
    • Effective Environmental Flows - Characterizing hydropower-altered flow regimes and the relationships between various components of natural flow regimes and environmental benefits; Developing alternative flow assessment methods with more hydro-relevant metrics; Guidance for dam operators and regulators for selecting most appropriate flow assessment methodologies and approaches.
    • Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Field characterization of greenhouse gas emissions from hydropower reservoirs in the U.S.; Model estimates of net reservoir emissions; Developing relationships between reservoir characteristics and likely greenhouse gas emissions.
      Douglas Dam
    ORNL is assessing greenhouse gas emissions at Douglas Dam, TN
    • Water Use Optimization - Develop an integrated set of models and approaches for optimizing the operational efficiency and environmental performance of hydroelectric power plants.
  • Climate Change - investigations on effects of projected change in climate and their influences on hydrologic variability in rainfall, stream flow, and water use and availability on hydropower production and associated environmental impacts as a result of projected climate change.
  Optimizing flows for fish and energy  
  ORNL ecological research is aimed at optimizing flows for fish and energy  

For more information on the environmental effects of Conventional Hydropower and Marine Hydrokinetic Energy please click here.




  • ORNL Hydropower Fact Sheet June 2014pdf file
  • ORNL Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Hydropower Reservoirs pdf file
  • ORNL Instream/Environmental Flows Researchpdf file
  • National Hydropower Asset Assessment Program (NHAAP) June 2012pdf file
  • ORNL MHK Acoustic Measurements Oct 2011 pdf file
  • ORNL Environmental Fact Sheet Jan 2011 pdf file
  • ORNL Hydropower Optimization Jan 2011 pdf file
  • Downstream Fish Passage through Hydropower Turbinespdf file
  • The Use of Traits-Based Assessment to Estimate Effects of Hydropower Projects on Fish Populationspdf file