Video: 100% Safe Hydro Turbine Passage for American Eels | PNNL Natel Study

December 7, 2022

The Restoration Hydro Turbine is designed to protect river-dwelling fish species while also efficiently generating renewable power. Watch live eels pass safely through the turbine in this video of a study we conducted with Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL) at our recirculating turbine test facility in Alameda, CA.

Turbine diameter: 55 cm
Eel length: 33.9-65.5 cm (13-26 in)
Hydraulic head: 10 m (33 ft)
Turbine speed: 667 revolutions/minute
Turbine-Passed Eels: 131
Control Eels: 43
Results: 100% 48-hour survival rate (and no significant internal or external injuries) for both treatment and control groups!

American Eels are hugely beneficial to a river’s flourishing ecosystem. Eels help transport water-filtering mussels upstream resulting in improvements to overall water quality and regularly prey on non-native river species like rusty crawfish, stopping their spread.Compared to other migratory fish species, freshwater eels face unique risks when passing downstream at hydropower sites. Their narrow body shape and strong migratory instincts make it a challenge to keep adult eels from entering turbines, and the sharp blades and converging pinch points present in conventional turbine designs can cause them severe injury. That’s why designing for and demonstrating safe passage of eels through operating turbines is essential.

In the U.S. alone, more than 939 hydropower plants (producing 32GW of power) are within the current population range of the American Eel. This proximity will continue to be an issue for the dwindling species unless new hydropower measures such as fish-safe turbines become standard practice.

Read our peer-reviewed paper in Transactions of the American Fisheries Society:
Learn why live fish testing is so important for fish-safe turbine design:


Featuring Natel Energy engineers and technicians: Abe Schneider, Sterling Watson, Leon Santen, Miguel Mejia, Gregor Cadman, Chris Bechtel.
Featuring PNNL scientists: Bob Mueller, Kate Deters, Daniel Deng, Brett Pflugrath.
Video narration: Sterling Watson
Filming: Kate Stirr
Video edit: Betsy Pfeiffer

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