The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office created the HydroPASSAGE project to provide information and tools to increase fish survival through turbines and other hydropower structures across the nation and around the world. 


The HydroPASSAGE project, completed in September 2021, was a research and development collaboration between engineers and biologists from DOE's Pacific Northwest and Oak Ridge National Laboratories. HydroPASSAGE addressed hydropower challenges, including efforts to improve environmental performance of hydropower, and the development of technologies and strategies that avoid, minimize, mitigate, and manage environmental effects.

The HydroPASSAGE project was dedicated to finding solutions to improve downstream fish passage conditions through turbines and other hydropower structures. (Video by Eric Francavilla | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

PNNL toolsets help to improve fish passage

HydroPASSAGE has provided advanced toolsets for evaluating the impacts of different hydropower turbine designs and operation schemes for fish species of concern. HydroPASSAGE toolsets and technologies improve fish passage, which is critical to supporting the development of new and refurbished hydropower facilities.

Part of the HydroPASSAGE project was to research and develop biological response models. These models simulate how fish are likely to respond when exposed to hydraulic and physical stressors associated with turbines and other hydropower structures.

Researchers on the project offered toolsets and information, including Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Biological Performance Assessment (BioPA) and the Hydropower Biological Evaluation Toolset (HBET). HBET is used with PNNL’s Sensor Fish package—a small, autonomous device used in the field or laboratory to gather information on what real fish experience during downstream passage. The toolsets are available for licensing. 

HydroPASSAGE toolsets are used during the decision-making process when developing new turbines, refurbishing old turbines, or designing new structures at existing plants to improve fish survival.