The Snohomish Public Utility District (PUD) has developed an innovative plan for a proposed hydropower project — the Sunset Fish Passage & Energy Project — which requires no dam, weir or river barriers, ultimately saving $10 million in construction costs.
The PUD’s updated design modifies the water intake area and fish screens to cut excavation needs in half. It also reduces construction time by an estimated six months. In addition, more efficient turbines at a proposed powerhouse would increase annual energy production.
The no-dam design is possible due to the unique geography of the South Fork Skykomish River. Upstream from Sunset Falls, the river turns sharply — a complete 180 degrees — creating a deep pool of water, which can accommodate an underwater intake structure.
Diverse, locally owned power sources, such as the Sunset project, help make the PUD and its customers more self-sufficient, resilient and energy secure. In addition to the Sunset Project, the PUD is assessing two other local hydropower projects, which will use the lowest cost renewable energy sources available locally — better in price than wind, solar, tidal and biomass/biogas.
“We have proven success delivering low-impact hydropower projects that provide multiple benefits to our customers,” said Kim Moore, PUD assistant general manager of Water, Generation & Corporate Services. “This project could be a valuable addition to our portfolio. Among the low-impact projects we identified in the past seven years, it’s the lowest cost power source.”
The utility has received numerous awards for its hydropower operations — from the Puget Sound Regional Council, Renewable Energy World and the American Society of Civil Engineers — and has been getting the bulk of its energy from Pacific Northwest hydropower for decades.