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Technologies and Products

We use a variety of tools to advance sustainable hydropower. These award-winning tools shed light on fish behavior and inform the development of innovative fish passage technologies.


Fish-Tracking Technologies

Whether you are monitoring fish behavior, evaluating fish passage through structures, or seeking partnerships related to these technologies, the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is ready to work with you. To learn more about PNNL's licensing and collaboration opportunities, download the Fish-Tracking Technologies brochure.


Fish Tags

Fish Tags

To assess and minimize the impacts of hydropower dams to migrating fish, dam operators need to understand how fish swim through rivers and dams. Our fish tags using the Juvenile Salmon Acoustic Telemetry System (JSATS) help researchers do just that. The tags help researchers map out precise 3D locations of fish and provide insights to revise hydropower operations or alter structures so they are more fish friendly.

The following four types of fish tags are designed to help answer varying research questions:

  • Injectable Tag: A tiny 3-volt lithium battery—as small as a grain of rice—makes this tag the world's first acoustic tag that can be implanted in about 20 seconds via injection vs. two minutes via traditional surgical methods.
  • Self-Powered Tag: This tag harvests mechanical energy from a fish's swimming motion using a flexible piezoelectric beam. It could track fish over the life of the fish.
  • Sturgeon Tag: These tags have long-lasting batteries and detect receivers up to 500 meters away, allowing tracking of sturgeon and adult eels that live deep underwater.
  • Juvenile Eel and Lamprey Tag: The smallest acoustic tag to date is 2 millimeters in diameter, 12 millimeters in length, and weighs 0.080 gram in air. The small size is necessary to stay in the bodies while not negatively effecting these thin flexible fish.

Since 2005, PNNL's fish tags have monitored the behavior of more than 100,000 fish in relation to water power structures in many geographic locations around the U.S., as well as in Australia, Laos, and Brazil.

For more information about JSATS, visit the website.

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Sensor Fish

Sensor Fish

Sensor Fish tell scientists how fish make their way through hydropower dams. Sensor Fish have been used to understand the effects of intense pressure changes on fish and other forces fish feel as they pass by turbines and other structures. Data such as temperature, water pressure, acceleration, and collisions are all recorded and stored on an internal memory card inside the Sensor Fish. This data can be used to redesign dam turbines that create less severe pressure changes while maintaining, or even improving the efficiency of power production. About 5,000 Sensor Fish releases have been conducted since 2004. They have been used all over the world, including the in the Pacific Northwest, Australia, Germany, and Laos, and they have been used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle City Light, and other organizations.

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Marine Sciences Laboratory Flyer

Sensor Fish: making hydroelectric dams and facilities more fish-friendly

Hydropower provides over 6% of the United States' electricity. The vast majority of that power comes from traditional, large hydroelectric dams.
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Biological Performance Assessment Software

Sensor Fish

Computational fluid dynamics model output of streamlines through a Francis turbine

The Biological Performance Assessment (BioPA) software is a component of PNNL's larger effort to help hydropower become more sustainable by applying Biologically Based Design and Evaluation (BioDE) principles to new turbines. BioPA is a computational fluid dynamics model used to help improve turbine passage conditions for fish. Scientific and validated predictions of turbine impacts on fish and how to minimize them will advance fish-friendly design criteria for turbine manufacturers. This may reduce long regulatory processes, and ultimately result in more efficient and sustainable hydropower.

Visit availabletechnologies.pnnl.gov for more information about the BioPA toolset and how to license this software.

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Basin Scale Planning

Basin Scale Planning

PNNL researchers are using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and data fusion techniques to create new spatial planning approaches to help guide future hydropower development. An example of this can be seen in the Basin Scale Opportunity Assessment (BSOA) Initiative whose goal is to develop and implement an integrative approach to assess hydropower and environmental opportunities on a scale more meaningful to economic and environmental sustainability. By approaching the environmental effects of hydropower at the scale of a river basin, energy and environmental planners can better understand the cumulative effects of hydropower in their basin and better identify sustainable solutions. The Initiative emphasizes sustainable, low-impact hydropower while simultaneously identifying opportunities for environmental improvements. The emphasis has since been expanded to include other important considerations for hydropower and water resource planning such as interconnection cost and climate impacts on water availability and energy markets. PNNL used its experience from developing and testing BSOA methodology in four basins around the country to develop a geographic based tool for planners, developers, and stakeholders to contribute information and jointly move toward a more sustainable future. Visit basin.pnnl.gov for more information about BSOA.

Point of Contact:

Water Power Research