To assess the hydropower potential in any area of the United States from a national perspective, a uniform set of criteria was developed and a probability factor computer model, called Hydropower Evaluation Software (HES), was designed to standardize the assessment. HES offers the PC user the ability to factor in environmental attributes of a hydropower site to calculate a relative development suitability factor for a project.
These environmental attributes include whether a site has Wild and Scenic Protection or is on a tributary of a site with such protection, and other cultural, fishery, geologic, historic, recreational, or scenic attributes. The presence of threatened or endangered fish or wildlife influences the suitability factor. Other attributes include the potential project's location, including whether the site is within a national park, national grassland, national wildlife refuge, or another federal land. A combination of attributes results in a lower suitability factor because multiple environmental considerations reduce the likelihood that a site may be developed to its physical potential. Several sources of information are used to assign attributes, including the Nationwide Rivers Inventory, maintained by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The HES was developed as a tool for regional or state agencies to obtain regional or state totals and is not intended to provide definitive potential development factors for individual sites. Further, because the software was developed as a generic measurement tool encompassing national issues, the use of regional and state totals must be conducted judiciously; various local issues may skew hydropower potential totals. Employing HES as a national measurement tool will smooth any local anomalies.
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