Honoring a Hydropower Legend: Dr. Kenneth Henwood

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Honoring a Hydropower Legend: Dr. Kenneth Henwood

DATE:

May 28, 2024

BY:

Jeremy Chase-Israel, Content Development Specialist, National Hydropower Association

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Honoring a Hydropower Legend: Dr. Kenneth Henwood

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The National Hydropower Association (NHA) is currently accepting applications, due June 21, 2024, for the Dr. Kenneth Henwood Award.

Considered one of the premier honors in the hydropower industry, the Dr. Kenneth Henwood Award takes its name from a man who dedicated his life to both preserving and promoting hydropower. Henwood’s notoriety as a staunch defender of hydropower came about in the 1980’s during the hydropower industry’s heated project licensing battles that took shape at the beginning of the decade and escalated later into the 80’s. Tragically, Henwood passed away in 1990 from injuries he sustained from a fall that occurred while surveying a site for a potential hydropower project.

Gail Ann Greely, former president of the NHA board, described Henwood’s character: “He saw it [hydropower] as a safe, renewable technology, and he had the ability to see how the environment, engineering, and economics all tied together when talking about hydropower. He got all of that very quickly, and he was very good at explaining it.”

The Award was established in 1991 and has been presented to 34 individuals. The Henwood Award seeks nominees who possess the following distinguishing traits:

  • Dedication to hydropower as an energy technology
  • Persistence in the face of institutional obstacles
  • A strong commitment for fair dealing and plain speaking
  • Uncommon enthusiasm as a leading force in the industry
  • Appreciation of the relationships between project engineering, environment, and economics

Considered the industry’s highest honor, the Dr. Kenneth Henwood Award is presented during NHA’s Clean Currents conference + tradeshow, which takes place in Portland, Oregon, from October 7-10, 2024.

A photo of Dr. Kenneth Henwood and his dog.

BACKGROUND

Dr. Kenneth Henwood’s devotion to hydropower grew out of a combination of his upbringing, formal education, work experience, and entrepreneurial drive.

The son of an engineer and rancher, Henwood received a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of California at Davis and, later, a PhD in ecology from the same school.

Kenneth Henwood and his brother Mark created Henwood Associates Inc. in the late 1970’s as a response to what they believed was a favorable climate developing in California for alternative energy development. As the chief engineer for Henwood Associates, Inc., Kenneth Henwood helped bring numerous small hydroelectric projects to fruition, primarily in California.

Notably, Henwood was involved with a clash over the proposed 1.1 MW Dynamo Pond project. The dispute involved whether a hydropower project on federal lands required separate authorizations beyond FERC. It was a project with a license from FERC, yet the Bureau of Land Management was also attempting to impose additional regulatory hurdles.

Dynamo Pond located south of Bridgeport, California.

At the time, the industry had begun to see federal and state agencies assert themselves in the FERC licensing process, and Dynamo Pond was one of the first to bring the issue into the open. Henwood’s forceful arguments helped the project get a green light.

Tragically, Dr. Kenneth Henwood died in 1990 at the age of 45 from injuries he sustained after an accident while conducting survey work for an under-development hydropower project in California.

The move to quickly establish an award to memorialize Henwood was a testimony to not only his influence, but also the hydropower industry’s need for enlightened and aggressive activism.

Dr. Kenneth Henwood, who oversaw the development of numerous hydropower projects in California, poses next to an in-progress project in Mono County, California.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Each year, the Dr. Kenneth Henwood Award is given to an individual who displays dedication to hydropower technology, persists in the face of institutional obstacles, and strives to make hydro’s case in a straightforward, energetic, yet balanced, manner.

Henwood was effective in his role because he brought a combination of education, intelligence, common sense, and energy to his defense of hydropower, and his penchant for plain speaking was born of the belief that hydroelectric power was a commonsense proposition.

If you embody these characteristics, or know someone who does, please apply by June 21, 2024, to be considered for the Dr. Kenneth Henwood Award.