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NNL technologies earn environmental business award

March 07, 2003 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. – Two environmental technologies developed by researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have been recognized for innovation and for showing "resilience and creativity in a challenging market" in the annual Business Achievement Awards competition sponsored by the Environmental Business Journal.

The technologies - a remote sensing application for monitoring 262 million acres of rangeland and a sensor device to help engineers design more fish-friendly hydroelectric dams - earned a Technology Merit Award for the laboratory. PNNL was the only organization recognized for multiple achievements.

Rangeland monitor

The rangeland technology is a more accurate way for the Bureau of Land Management to economically monitor 262 million acres of Western public land.

Remote sensing devices send a spectral signature, an image in which colors convey information, to a computer screen. Differences in the spectral signature from an expected or normal pattern help identify areas of overgrazing, weed invasion or fire damage. These sites can be of concern for land managers, ranchers and conservationists.

PNNL project manager Larry Cadwell noted that the process also could be used in land management assessments of areas under consideration for resource development, such as oil exploration, and to provide timely data for restoration planning after large wildfires or other disturbances.

The bureau previously had considered remote sensing but believed it was too expensive and generated unmanageable amounts of data. Less costly types of satellite imagery have since been deployed. PNNL researchers cut through the information overload by using available soil and vegetation data to map rangeland into sections of relatively uniform physical and spectral character and developing computer software to interpret satellite imagery of those sections.

Sensor Fish

The Sensor Fish is a device that reveals what juvenile salmon experience as they pass through the turbulent waters of hydroelectric dams on their way to the ocean.

The roughly fish-sized package contains accelerometers, pressure gauges and other instruments. The devices are deployed in turbines, spillways and sluiceways to measure changes in pressure and linear acceleration fish experience during passage.

Before development of the Sensor Fish, biologists and dam operators relied upon physical and computational fluid dynamic models to characterize spillway and turbine passage environments.

"The vast majority of juvenile salmon and steelhead passing through the turbines survive without injury. Still, the rate at which injuries occur is considered unacceptable," said PNNL researcher Tom Carlson, who leads the project.

Data collected in more than 1,000 deployments are helping researchers understand what conditions may be responsible for different types of injuries and where these conditions occur during passage. As more studies are conducted using both live fish and Sensor Fish, a valuable database is developing that links Sensor Fish histories with live fish injury and mortality rates.

This information is helping engineers design safer passage routes for regional fish stocks while maintaining the hydropower system that provides about 70 percent of the electricity used in the Pacific Northwest, Carlson said.

Development and implementation of the Sensor Fish is supported by DOE's Advanced Hydropower Turbine System Program, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and regional utilities. The rangeland technology is funded by the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management.

Tags: Energy, Hydropower

Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,300 staff and has an annual budget of about $950 million. It is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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