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Dams, Sustainability, and Energy Transition: What is Our Role as Dam Practitioners?
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Dams, for a very long time, have played an important role in renewable energy power production.

We, as a society and as an industry, have taken advantage of the hydrologic cycle through development of dam-and-reservoir infrastructure systems, to provide an essentially continuous source of power without depleting the earth's exhaustible resources. Now, in an age of increased urgency and interest in sustainability, and national commitments to and aspirations for renewable energy sources, it is worth considering anew the role that dams play in power supply.

“Sustainability” and “energy transition” are not merely buzzwords; they are genuine, overarching objectives that many organizations have embraced and are using to guide their corporate decision-making. This perspective is not something that most dam engineering practitioners are familiar with or incorporate into their practice. Rather, dam engineering practitioners tend to view assignments and consulting input as revolving around principally a cost-vs-safety/operational effectiveness tradeoff. The elements of sustainability and energy transition are, for the most part, not well understood in the dam engineering community, and that community is not very well prepared to incorporate sustainability and energy transition elements into support for dam-owning organizations being served.

This paper describes how sustainability and energy transition are and can be reflected in dam engineering practice, not just in esoteric concepts, but in pragmatic terms. The paper presents the key elements of sustainability and energy transition as they relate to the dams industry. Also addressed are questions relating to tradeoffs between these aspirations and dam safety concerns, of interest to not only dam owners, but also their engineers and regulators.

Publication Summary

  • Geosyntec Authors: Derek Morley, Barb Neary, Lynn McGuire, Alena Raymond
  • All Authors: Derek Morley, Barb Neary, Lynn McGuire, Alena Raymond
  • Title: United States Society on Dams (USSD) 2022 Annual Conference
  • Event or Publication: Event
  • Practice Areas: Dams; Dam Safety
  • Citation: United States Society on Dams (USSD) 2022 Annual Conference and Exhibition at the Town and Country Resort in San Diego, California on April 11 through 14, 2022.
  • Date: Tuesday, April 12 at 2:10 p.m. PDT
  • Location: San Diego, California
  • Publication Type: Platform Presentation