Doe Science news source
The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2017-12-04 12:00:12
  • Article ID: 686116

New Research Shows Hydropower Dams Can Be Managed Without an All-or-Nothing Choice Between Energy and Food

  • Credit: John Sabo/Arizona State University

    Fishing in Lake Tonle Sap, Cambodia.

Nearly 100 hydropower dams are planned for construction along tributaries off the Mekong River’s 2,700-mile stretch. The river, one of the world’s largest, flows through Burma, China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. It is an economic engine for fishermen and a food source for millions of people worldwide. And while the dams are expected to provide clean energy to the region, if not managed properly, they also have the potential to offset natural river patterns, which would damage food production, supply and business.

Arizona State University professor John Sabo and collaborators have proposed a solution to this problem in the Dec. 8 issue of Science Magazine that allows dam operators to generate power in ways that also protect – and possibly improve – food supplies and businesses throughout the Mekong river basin. The proposed solution, the first of its kind for this problem, can be applied to other large river systems around the world facing similar tradeoffs.

“We have figured out the relationship between river flows and fish catch, and we have developed an algorithm for dam operators to use that will increase fish harvests and still generate power,” Sabo said. “Dams are going to be built no matter how much fuss we make, our research shows how we can be more strategic about the buildout and operations of these dams in the Mekong.”

The Mekong river floods annually, and it is known that those floods are important for fisheries, Sabo said. New in this research is the recognition that seasonal droughts are equally important. Long droughts combined with short floods may create the ideal conditions for terrestrial nutrients to be entrained into the freshwater system. With that in mind, the algorithm presented by Sabo et al. in Science recommends long low-flow periods punctuated by pulses of flooding, which will allow dam operators to co-manage their power generation priorities, while protecting livelihoods for fisheries downstream.

Sabo worked with other ASU researchers on the project, as well as researchers from the University of Washington, University of Maryland, Conservation International, the University of South Florida, the Mekong River Commission and Aalto University.

“We have taken this conversation around fisheries and dams in the Mekong from a yes-or-no conversation, from a good idea-bad idea conversation, and we have come up with an alternative, a mathematical formula that has the possibility to achieve dam operator goals and protects fisheries,” said Gordon Holtgrieve, an assistant professor at the University of Washington.

With recent funding from the National Science Foundation, Sabo, Holtgrieve and a team of researchers will expand the project to better understand how dam operators can balance power generation needs with other factors, including rice production, food nutritional quality, ecological goals and more.

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National MagLab's Latest Magnet Snags World Record, Marks New Era of Scientific Discovery

The Florida State University-headquartered National High Magnetic Field Laboratory has shattered another world record with the testing of a 32-tesla magnet -- 33 percent stronger than what had previously been the world's strongest superconducting magnet used for research and more than 3,000 times stronger than a small refrigerator magnet.

Clearing the Air

A greater understanding of the dynamics of chemical reactions is leading to better models of atmospheric chemistry. Through this work, scientists are gaining insight into a key chemical able to break down some major air pollutants.

The Wet Road to Fast and Stable Batteries

An international team of scientists --- including several researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory -- - has discovered an anode battery material with superfast charging and stable operation over many thousands of cycles.

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Advance in Light Filtering Technology Has Implications for LCD Screens, Lasers and Beyond

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Accelerating the Self-Assembly of Nanoscale Patterns for Next-Generation Materials

Scientists have come up with a way to massively speed up the ordering process for self-assembling materials. The resulting ultra-small, well-ordered patterns could be used in the fabrication of microelectronics, antireflective surfaces, magnetic data storage systems, and fluid-flow devices.

Beta of Neurodata Without Borders Software Now Available

Neuroscientists can now explore a beta version of the new Neurodata Without Borders: Neurophysiology (NWB:N 2.0) software and offer input to developers before it is fully released next year.

Scientists Discover Path to Improving Game-Changing Battery Electrode

Researchers from Stanford University, two Department of Energy national labs and the battery manufacturer Samsung created a comprehensive picture of how the same chemical processes that give cathodes their high capacity are also linked to changes in atomic structure that sap performance.

ESnet's Petascale DTN Project Speeds up Data Transfers between Leading HPC Centers

A new Petascale Data Transfer Node project aims to to achieve regular disk-to-disk, end-to-end transfer rates of one petabyte per week between major supercomputing facilities, which translates to achievable throughput rates of about 15 Gbps on real world science data sets.

Underappreciated Microbes Now Get Credit for Holding Down Two Jobs in Soil

Soil microbes work as both decomposers and synthesizers of carbon compounds in soil, offering new answers with impacts to crops and eco-health.


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LLNL Releases Newly Declassified Nuclear Test Videos

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) released 62 newly declassified videos today of atmospheric nuclear tests films that have never before been seen by the public.

NAU Researchers Join DOE Project to Study the Soil Microbiome and Its Effect on Carbon Persistence

NAU Regents' Professor Bruce Hungate, director of the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (Ecoss), recently joined a new initiative lead by LLNL to study how the soil microbiome controls the mechanisms that regulate the stabilization of the organic matter in soil.

Four Scientists Win the Los Alamos Medal

Los Alamos National Laboratory will award four former researchers with the Los Alamos Medal for their scientific contributions.

Stewart Prager Honored with FPA Distinguished Career Award

Announcement of Fusion Power Associates career award for Stewart Prager

WVU Physicists Among Collaborators Granted $7 Million to Form U.S. Department of Energy Center of Excellence

Scientists pause each afternoon at Kirtland Air Force Base in Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, awaiting the daily lightning flash and unmistakable floor jolt that accompanies a Z shot

US Dept. Of Energy Grant to Advance Combined Heat and Power Systems in the Midwest

The University of Illinois at Chicago has received a five-year, $4.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to help industrial, commercial, institutional and utility entities evaluate and install highly efficient combined heat and power (CHP) technologies.CHP, also known as cogeneration, is a single system that produces both thermal energy and electricity.

Applications Open: ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship 2018-2019

ECS, in a continued partnership with the Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA), a division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TEMA), is requesting proposals from young professors and scholars pursuing innovative electrochemical research in green energy technology.

Successful Startup Founder to Lead Entrepreneurship Program at Argonne

John Carlisle has been named the director of Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI), a program aimed at accelerating job creation through innovation, based at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory.

Department of Energy Supports Argonne Nuclear Technologies

This fall, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced nearly $4.7 million in funding for the department's Argonne National Laboratory across 16 projects in three divisions. Four of those TCF awards, representing more than $1 million in funds, are slated for Argonne's Nuclear Engineering division.

Southern Research Develops Gasifier Technology to Unlock Coal's Potential

Southern Research has been selected to receive nearly $1.7 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding to develop a new, cost-efficient gasifier capable of converting low-grade coal into synthesis gas (syngas) that can be used in a number of applications.


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Molecular Mousetraps Capture More Nuclear Waste

Cage-like molecules with internal chemical hooks remove three times more hazardous radioactive iodine compounds than current methods.

New Quantum Liquid Crystal--In the Driver's Seat

Lasers reveal a new state of matter--the first 3-D quantum liquid crystal.

Chemical "Pressure" Tuning Magnetic Properties

Unexpectedly, a little chemical substitution stabilizes unusual magnetic phase of vortexes called skyrmions.

Stirring up a Quantum Spin Liquid with Disorder

New, unexpected paradigm discovered: Disorder may actually promote an exotic quantum state, with potential for ultrafast computing.

Light Perfects Interfaces

Shining light on a growing semiconductor modifies its interface with the surface and could improve the optical properties of each.

Underappreciated Microbes Now Get Credit for Holding Down Two Jobs in Soil

Soil microbes work as both decomposers and synthesizers of carbon compounds in soil, offering new answers with impacts to crops and eco-health.

Energy, Economy, and the Earth: The Benefits of Creating Feedback Loops

Scientists reduce uncertainties in future climate prediction by directly coupling an energy-economy model to an Earth system model.

How Grasslands Regulate Their Productivity in Response to Droughts

Scientists show that grasslands are more sensitive to changes in the amount of moisture in the air than to changes in precipitation.

Building Confidence in Hydrologic Models

Scientists evaluate seven hydrologic models to understand how each model agrees and differs.

El Nino and Liquid Water Clouds Contribute to Antarctic Melt in 2015-2016

Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) observations provide clues on atmospheric contributions to an Antarctic melt event.


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