March 24, 2022

Energy Developers Save Time and Money with Hydrology Modeling

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Written by Matt Hildreth, PE and Jeff Kopocis, PE  

While energy developers are trying to complete a project with strict timelines, they are also focused on minimizing risk to the final project. One of those risks is flooding. Before installing wind turbines, solar panels, and transmission lines, all infrastructure should be analyzed for flood risk. This is where hydrology modeling provides value and peace of mind. 

Insurance companies can require the energy project site to be covered for flood risk for 100-year storms. As we see an increase in frequency of 100-year storms, it is more important than ever to run hydrology modeling early and with a professional water resource team familiar with the local regulations and latest technology. Doing so in the early planning stage of a project can save developers both time and money in the long run. 

Efficiency and assurance with hydrology modeling  

Proactive and detailed hydrology modeling helps developers eliminate time associated with redesigns to accommodate weather-related risk areas. Modeling can include conducting due diligence hydrology reviews, soil infiltration tests, stormwater management plans, FEMA flood studies, and local government stormwater permitting. The ideal time to bring in a water resources team is before, or during, the initial site evaluation, environmental permitting, and micrositing. This provides the developer assurance of planned installation locations for turbines, solar panels, or transmission lines and helps mitigate backtracking on a project because an access road or turbine is in a flood risk zone. Since hydrology modeling can be completed in about four to six weeks, doing it early gives more flexibility in the design phase and overall project timeline. With collaboration between environmental, water resources, and civil engineering professionals, the team can produce an incredibly accurate design plan.  

Save money and strengthen project investments 

Obtaining hydrology modeling early results in a more stable design and helps prepare the site for potentially damaging weather events. The collaborative input from site assessment, environmental, water resources, civil, and surveying professionals helps to reduce the costs of project redesigns. A water resources team will be able to evaluate the complexities of the soil types, lakes, and streams concurrently as the other design groups complete their assessments.  

Developers and owners can benefit from reduced future maintenance costs by having proper mitigation in place for areas of infrastructure that will see significant weather over the course of the project lifecycle. A hydrology plan integrated into the final design is key and could include actions like incorporating drainage crossings to reduce the chance of access roads being washed out, or foundation mitigation for erosion or scour. The expertise of a professional water resources team helps developers understand where turbines, transmission lines, or solar panels will see flooding and help ensure the security of their investment. 

Working together to achieve project goals 

Energy developers want to produce quality projects for the right price. Collaborating early with professional engineering and permitting teams will result in the best design plan. A design that includes a detailed hydrology study allows developers to plan around flood-risk areas and prepare for areas that will unavoidably be affected.  

Westwood completes hundreds of SWPPPs, SPCC Plans, and hydrology studies on projects every year and is trailblazing hydrology studies in both technology and accuracy. Whether you need a half-acre lot drainage design or a thousand-acre project permitting and final design, reach out to our Water Resources team for hydrology modeling and more on your next project.  

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