Hydropower   Nuclear   Solar   Wind  

How Our Power Works

Hydropower is a clean, renewable resource that is fueled by nature and replenished by rain and melting snowpack as part of the water cycle. The water is stored in large pools or reservoirs behind hydroelectric dams.  Stored water is released and travels through the penstock and past turbine blades, causing them to spin and turn a shaft.  The spinning shaft in turn spins electromagnetics which ultimately produces electricity.  By controlling the flow of water through turbines, hydro operators can store or release water to generate electricity to meet demand.


The value of hydropower comes from its flexible nature and ability to quickly ramp up and down to follow the daily cycle of energy usage.  Hydropower is a reliable, baseload resource that allows for the integration of intermittent resources like wind and solar.  It is always on and can be called upon when the wind doesn’t blow, and the sun doesn’t shine. 
Benton PUD is proud of the investment we have made in hydropower.  Currently almost 80% of our power comes from hydropower and nearly 92% is emission free as a result of hydro and nuclear energy resources.

The dams that make up the Federal Columbia River Power System are part of the Northwest's electric power system and provide more than just low-cost power.  They are crucial for river transportation and trade, irrigation and agriculture, recreation and jobs and fish conservation. 


Bonneville Power Administration has invested close to $17 billion in Fish & Wildlife programs since 1981.  These funds have been used to improve fish passage technology hydroelectric dams, restore damaged habitat, improve fish hatchery practices and protect lands and streams.   

Benton PUD believes dams and salmon can co-exist.  The dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers have some of the most advanced fish-passage technology in the world to help salmon and steelhead travel up and down river more quickly and safety.  All dams on the four lower Snake River Dams meet the performance standard of 93 to 96 percent average per-dam survival for migrating juvenile fish.


Fish and Dams Can Coexist


  • Northwest dams provide nearly 60 percent of the region’s electricity under normal rain and snow conditions and 90% of the region's carbon-free electricity.
  • Overall, Northwest dams produce an average of about 16,000 megawatts of electricity every year under normal precipitation equivalent to powering over 16 Seattle-sized cities every year.
  • Electricity from Northwest hydropower facilities typically costs 3 to 10 times less (per megawatt hour) than nuclear, coal or natural gas plants. It’s also cheaper than wind or solar.
  • The Columbia and Snake River dams have enabled a 465-mile marine highway that allows for environmentally friendly barging of cargo.  Barging on the Snake River alone keeps as many as 135,000 semi-trucks and 35,000 rail cars from transporting goods through the Columbia River gorge annually.
  • Hydro system operations have been modified to increase flows and the spill of water through the dams to move young fish downstream faster, and fish survivals at the dam are high, averaging 97 percent.