Top 10 Takeaways from Clean Currents 2021

Top 10 Takeaways from Clean Currents 2021

NHA thanks our sponsors:

Clean Currents 2022

The inaugural annual Clean Currents Tradeshow + Conference held the week of October 18, 2021, brought together more than 780 individuals from all sectors of the waterpower industry to learn, connect, and do business.

Throughout the event, there was so much news created, information exchanged, and advice offered. In the coming weeks, NHA’s POWERHOUSE will share with readers multiple insights coming out of Clean Currents.

For today, though, here’s the top ten takeaways observed by the National Hydropower Association, owner and organizer of Clean Currents.


Pumped-storage hydro is seen as a critical contributor of long-duration storage. A number of investor-owned utilities and private developers are looking to develop potential sites. Case in point: Southern Company’s hydro manager Herbie Johnson announced that Alabama Power Company is considering development of a pumped-storage project. The utility has filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a preliminary permit to study the feasibility of the 1,600-MW Chandler Mountain pumped storage project, to be located in Etowah and St. Clair counties in Alabama.


Hydropower – in all its forms – is being described as “renewable, modern, productive, sustainable, flexible, clean, and long term.”


The next generation of the waterpower workforce is innovative, creative, and forward thinking. In a display of creativity and ingenuity, Colin Sasthav, PhD student at the University of Tennessee focused on Energy Science and Engineering, won the Hydro Think Tank Unplugged Competition. The competition, organized by the Hydropower Foundation, challenged students to design a city of 2030, incorporating hydro as one of the energy resources used, in conjunction with other carbon-free technologies.


Marine energy technologies — powered by water-based renewable resources such as currents, tides, and waves — will be critical in helping to reach 100% clean energy targets and related climate change goals. The sector (both industry and government) must work together to accelerate commercialization of these technologies.


The industry is focusing on the future. The National Hydropower Association (NHA) officially launched its Future Leaders of Waterpower (FLOW) program. The purpose of this ad-hoc networking/career development group is to attract and support talented, diverse professionals by creating a welcoming and safe environment and by providing a clear pathway for professional growth.


There’s an urgent need to quantify the value of pumped storage hydro. During Clean Currents, the U.S. Department of Energy officially launched a new tool for use in placing a value on pumped storage. Building on the Pumped Storage Hydro (PSH) Valuation Guidebook recently released by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Argonne National Laboratory have developed a web-based tool to walk users through the 13-step methodology to establish the value of a pumped storage hydro project. The tool was officially launched on Thursday, October 21, during Clean Currents.


An “uncommon” dialogue with environmentalists and the hydropower industry is creating new opportunities for collaboration. Tom Kiernan, CEO of American Rivers, spoke at the event and stated: “Hydropower is an important part of the grid. There are some dams where there is existing hydropower that can be retrofit. We can, as a society, get more good, clean energy out of that. Let’s keep talking and finding the places where we can work together.”


Innovation and new technology was “top of mind” at the event in the unique “Innovation Power House,” with more than 20 demonstrators sharing a variety of ideas for reducing costs and/or risks, improving revenue and/or flexibility, and giving the people in the industry tools to work smarter instead of harder.

Demonstrations in the Innovation Power House centered around: tools to help people work more efficiently, safely, and productively; manufacturing innovations; technologies and innovations for employee training; new releases and launches; and technologies that inspire and excite.


A reoccurring theme of discussion throughout the week — “Waterpower is an important part of the clean energy future – the industry needs to tell that story. If we don’t tell our story, someone else will tell it for us.”


Recognizing and rewarding talent at the university level is critical to building a future workforce. Kaliyah Burnett, mechanical engineering undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, was recognized as the recipient of the Julie Keil Scholarship.


In summary, the event was full of energy, excitement, and hope for the future, as you’ll see in this short video.

The 2022 edition of Clean Currents Conference + Tradeshow will be in Sacramento, California, October 18-20, 2022. Host utilities are: Bureau of Reclamation; California Department of Water Resources, Northern California Power Agency, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and Sacramento Municipal Utility District. More than 70 companies and organizations have already signed up to exhibit at the 2022 event.