Dr. Emilio Moran of Geography, is the lead PI of a collaborative team of researchers at MSU, one that also includes Dr. Nathan Moore (also of Geography) as a Co-PI, that has won a ~$2.6-million grant for a 4-yr project entitled: Rethinking Dams: Innovative Hydropower Solutions to achieve sustainable food and energy production and sustainable communities. Hydropower dams have been an important part of worldwide energy production, but they also have resulted in substantial negative environmental and social outcomes. This study proposes a new way to think about hydropower, one that looks not just at energy production as the goal, but as an integrated system that can generate ecological, economic, and societal benefits beyond electricity. The study will model scenarios to assess how hydropower technologies can be deployed in new ways, such as through enhancing production of food by applying river sediments on cropland as fertilizer, or by changing hydropower technology toward smaller dams and in-stream turbines to reduce negative outcomes on river ecology and fish productivity. Along with the training of students and postdocs, a web-based decision support system will be developed to inform stakeholders about alternative hydropower designs and locations, offer options to increase benefits to stakeholders, and serve as a lasting legacy for policy makers, scientists, and local institutions in managing their food, water and energy resources. The scenarios for redesigned hydropower will constitute a transformation in how hydropower is viewed, replacing a top-down approach that mandates a single-minded focus on maximizing energy production with a bottom-up approach informed by the complexity interlinking the food, energy, and water systems. The project will generate innovative solutions that will improve the acceptability of hydropower development in the U.S., Europe, and across the world. This project focuses on the epicenter of contemporary hydropower development, the Amazon Basin, which is arguably the region where innovations will be most transformative because of its biological and cultural importance, especially because 85% of power in Brazil is produced this way.
Dr. Moran and Dr. Moore also have joint appointments in the Center for Global Change and Earth Observation (CGCEO). This important project also involves collaboration between geography, natural sciences, engineering and college of agriculture and natural resources. Congratulations to all!