For Immediate Release: January 12, 2011
Media Contact: Sandy Louey - 916-654-4989


Energy Commission Awards Over $500,000 for Research Projects

SACRAMENTO - The California Energy Commission today awarded $582,685 for research projects including one that will look at the effects of climate change on hydropower projects. Funds for the four research projects come from the Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program.

The Energy Commission approved $299,970 to the University of California at Davis to look at the effects of climate change on hydropower operations and their environmental impact downstream.

More than 300 hydropower dams in California are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), with permits for more than half of them scheduled to expire by 2020. Because of the long life span of hydropower project licenses - 30 to 50 years - the only time to make operational changes to a project that affects power generation, water quality, ecological health, and recreational functions is during relicensing.

The UC Davis team will conduct a climate change environmental study for the Yuba River Development Project, which has a capacity to generate 362 megawatts of electricity. A new license for the Yuba River project is scheduled to be filed by 2014.

The study's main goal is to develop methods and tools that can be used to analyze hydropower projects that are being relicensed. The research will also help support incorporating climate change data in the future licensing of hydropower projects before FERC.

The three other projects that were approved were:

  • San Diego State University will receive $94,940 to study the feasibility of a gas-cooled central receiver for heliostat utility-scale solar thermal generation. The system will be a hybrid configuration designed to use natural gas at low concentrations suitable for flameless combustion to achieve consistent power production during times of reduced solar input. The project will allow the use of a gas turbine instead of the convention steam-powered cycle system, which also increases overall efficiency.
  • NanoRIS of Citrus Heights will receive $94,780 to look at the feasibility of fabricating doped nanowires from cobalt and antimony for high temperature thermoelectric materials to increase conversion efficiencies in thermoelectric devices and reduce thermal waste. The design builds upon the patented nanocable technology that the project's principal investigator developed at UC Davis.
  • UC Davis will receive $92,995 for a project to reduce the natural gas used to harvest and dry walnuts. The project's principal investigator plans to work with the California Walnut Board to identify methods to more efficiently dehull, sort and dry walnuts. California produces almost 99 percent of the nation's walnut harvest.

The Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program supports public interest research and development that helps improve the quality of life in California by bringing environmentally safe, reliable, and affordable energy services and products to the marketplace. For more information, visit

Created by the California Legislature in 1974, the California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency. The Energy Commission has five major responsibilities: forecasting future energy needs and keeping historical energy data; licensing thermal power plants 50 megawatts or larger; promoting energy efficiency through appliance and building standards; developing energy technologies and supporting renewable energy; and planning for and directing state response to energy emergency.

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