Northwest Hydraulic Consultants (NHS)

Hydroelectric Generation Services


A recent focus on renewable and clean energy sources has increased activity in hydroelectric generation. Many small and medium-sized hydroelectric projects are being developed. Larger existing projects are being upgraded and relicensed, while many large new international projects are in planning and development. Hydrotechnical studies assist in designing these facilities and reducing their potential adverse environmental impacts.

NHC provides experts with a range of methods and software for hydrologic, hydraulic, sedimentation, and morphologic studies to support hydroelectric development and generation. Our physical modeling laboratories offer hydraulic testing and assessment of project components, using both fixed-boundary and mobile-boundary models, as appropriate.

NHC has directed and contributed to a range of engineering and environmental activities connected with hydropower generation, including:

  • Initial planning, assessment, and costing of alternative sites and configurations.
  • Preliminary and detailed engineering for small and medium hydroelectric projects.
  • Evaluating and mitigating hydrologic and geomorphic effects.
  • Numerically modeling hypothetical floods caused by dam failure.
  • Physical and CFD modeling to evaluate intake and spillway designs, powerhouse configurations, sediment management, fish passage, navigation, and total dissolved gas (TDG) abatement.
  • Transient analyses to evaluate penstock designs.
  • Field data collection (water level, temperature, turbidity, velocity, and suspended sediment).
  • Instream Flow Requirement (IFR) optimization (both minimum flow for aquatic habitat and maximum geomorphic flows), fish exclusion, fish passage, and flow ramping analyses.


Examples of NHC studies related to power generation include:

Initial Planning for Small Hydro Projects
Evaluating energy generation potential and reviewing designs for many hydroelectric facilities. We estimate long-term stream flows from short-term discharge data for hydro-generation assessment.

Hydraulic Design, and Physical and Numerical Modeling
Performing hydraulic design of all aspects of dam and hydro developments and related infrastructure using both physical and numerical modeling.

Sedimentation Assessments
Conducting field measurements and sediment transport analyses and modeling to assess sedimentation in reservoirs and diversion tunnels and to estimate sediment trap efficiencies.

Probable Maximum Flood for Design of Emergency Spillways
Conducting hydro-meteorological studies using numerical and physical modeling to determine probable maximum floods (PMF) for reservoirs under extreme flood conditions. NHC has also provided hydrotechnical input to many dam safety reviews.

Water Budget, Operations Assessment, and Instream Flows
Developing water budgets and operations for many rivers. Instream flow studies, conducted with biologists, have identified key fish species and life stages and appropriate flows to maintain habitat.

Fish Passage
Applying fish passage criteria to evaluate and design fish passage facilities around small and large hydroelectric facilities.

Development of Methodologies and Guidelines
Publishing many hydro-related articles and contributing to key references such as Hydrology of Floods in Canada – a Guide to Planning and Design (1989) and Assessment Methods for Aquatic Habitat and Instream Flow Characteristics in Support of Applications to Dam, Divert, or Extract Water from Streams in British Columbia (2004).

Benefits & Results:

  • Our contributions help hydropower developers effectively plan, design, and gain approval for new and upgraded 'greening' of hydropower projects.
  • Our work helps ensure that hydroelectric projects minimize risks to the environment, enhance public safety, and protect beneficial uses.

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