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US Forest Service Harnesses Hydropower without Having to Build a Dam

Posted by Robert H. Westover, Public Affairs Specialist, U.S. Forest Service in Energy Forestry
Mar 30, 2012

The Spotted Bear Ranger Station at the Flathead National Forest in western Montana generates electricity using micro-hydropower. Like a traditional hydro dam, this small water system converts the energy of flowing water into electricity. When the water level of Addition Creek on the ranger station is adequate, the micro-hydropower system produces enough electricity to supply the entire compound which consists of 31 small buildings.

The micro-hydropower system at the Spotted Bear Ranger Station.
The micro-hydropower system at the Spotted Bear Ranger Station.

This is great news for sustainable energy advocates because micro-hydropower can provide rural communities with an easy to maintain and long-term solution to their energy needs. Many rural communities in the U.S. are already employing various types of micro-hydropower.

Like the old mill operations of the past, these systems do not require a dam or storage facility to be constructed but simply divert water from a stream or river then channel it into a valley and 'drop' it into a turbine via some type of funneling system or pipelines. Consequently, this type of hydro generation avoids the damaging environmental effects that larger hydroelectric dams create.

At present, the Spotted Bear Ranger Station is the only known Forest Service facility to harness this type of renewable energy.

Category/Topic: Energy Forestry