Although numerous HK designs are under development (see DOE 2009 for a description of the technologies and their potential environmental effects), the most commonly proposed currentbased projects entail arrays of rotating devices, much like submerged wind turbines, that are positioned in the high-velocity (high energy) river channels. The many diverse HK designs imply a diversity of environmental impacts, but a potential impact common to most is the risk for blade strike to aquatic organisms.
In conventional hydropower generation, research on fish passage through reaction turbines at low-head dams suggested that strike and mortality for small fish could be low. As a consequence of the large surface area to mass ratio of small fish, the drag forces in the boundary layer flow at the surface of a rotor blade may pull small fish around the leading edge of a rotor blade without making physical contact (Turnpenny 1998, Turnpenny et al. 2000). Although there is concern that small, fragile fish early life stages may be unable to avoid being struck by the blades of hydrokinetic turbines, we found no empirical data in the published literature that document survival of earliest life-stage fish in passage by rotor blades. In addition to blade strike, research on passage of fish through conventional hydropower turbines suggested that fish mortalities from passage through the rotor swept area could also occur due to shear stresses and pressure chances in the water column (Čada et al. 1997, Turnpenny 1998). However, for most of the proposed HK turbine designs the rotors are projected to operate a lower RPM (revolutions per minute) than observed from conventional reaction turbines; the associated shear stress and pressure changes are expected to be lower and pose a smaller threat to fish survival (DOE 2009). Only a limited number of studies have been conducted to examine the risk of blade strike from hydrokinetic technologies to fish (Turnpenny et al. 1992, Normandeau et al. 2009, Seitz et al. 2011, EPRI 2011); the survival of drifting or Page 2 Effects of Blade Strike on Larval and Juvenile Freshwater Fishes weakly swimming fish (especially early life stages) that encounter rotor blades from hydrokinetic (HK) devices is currently unknown.
Our study addressed this knowledge gap by testing how fish larvae and juveniles encountered different blade profiles of hydrokinetic devices and how such encounters influenced survivorship.