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Center of Expertise: the Hydroelectric Design Center

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The Corps-wide Centers of Expertise program provides an inventory of specialized knowledge and skills within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that can furnish beneficial assistance to all Corps elements. Click here for more about Army Centers of Expertise.
Established in 1948 to support new hydroelectric development on the Columbia River, HDC is the Corps of Engineers' National Center for Expertise in hydroelectric and large pumping plant engineering services. Administratively a part of the Portland District, our office is in downtown Portland, Ore.

Vision

  • Leaders in Hydropower Engineering
  • Respected for our competence
  • Responsive to customer needs
  • Reliable product delivery

Goals

  • Deliver quality products and innovative solutions that meet customer requirements and technical standards.
  • Recruit, develop, and retain a workforce to deliver excellence in hydropower engineering.
  • Be a value-added team member through collaboration, coordination, and professionalism.

The Hydropower Analysis Center was established in the 1950s to address the hydropower potential of the Pacific Northwest. In 1995, the HAC became the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' center of hydropower expertise. HAC merged with the Hydroelectric Design Center in 2008.

The HAC is involved with hydropower analyses and economic evaluations of many projects in the U.S. and abroad. Some of the key functions of the HAC include:

  • Cost allocation/reallocation studies
  • Hydropower energy evaluations
  • Powerplant studies
  • Power value computations
  • River systems studies
  • Hydropower analysis training
The Electrical branch provides planning and engineering for electrical portions of powerhouses and pumping stations. This includes the review of electrical features of non-Federal hydropower development at Corps projects that could affect the project integrity and safety, as well as forensic failure analysis for major power plant equipment. Its major sections are:
  1. Control Systems
  2. Protection Systems
  3. Power Systems
  4. Generation Equipment
  5. Generic Data Acquisition and Controls System Support
These sections provide a full range of professional engineering services associated with hydropower facilities. Included are the engineering studies for load flow, fault analysis, arc flash analysis, protective relay settings, equipment sizing, and control interactions with the external power transmission system. Field engineering support is also provided to assist operating power plants, and to test and support commissioning and start-up of new or renovated systems.

The Mechanical/Structural branch is responsible for providing, planning and engineering for mechanical and structural portions of powerhouses and pumping stations. In addition, this branch provides reviews of structural and mechanical features of non-Federal hydropower at Corps projects that could affect the project integrity and safety.
The sections of the Mechanical/Structural Branch are:

  1. Engineering Support
  2. Turbo-Machinery
  3. Mechanical System
  4. Structural
The Product Coordination branch at the Hydroelectric Design Center works with both customers and engineers, managing workload while maintaining positive and successful customer relationships. Product coordinators act as a customer's primary point of contact and manage each project from the beginning of work until the project is complete. Work areas are assigned by division across the nation. (See: Work divisions.)
The PC branch does the following work:
  • Coordinate and prepare scopes, schedules and budgets for each task or job.
  • Monitor schedules and costs and assure effective progress of jobs.
  • Interface with client district's project managers.
  • Finalize specification packages.
  • Coordinate with customer districts and partners to help develop out-year programs.
  • Represent HDC in meetings with customers, partners, stakeholders and interested parties.
  • Assist management and resource providers in assessing resourcing and staffing needs.
Our hydropower engineering work is spread throughout the Corps' divisions and include these districts:

Northwestern Division(CENWD)

  1. Portland District (CENWP)
  2. Seattle District (CENWS)
  3. Walla Walla District (CENWW)
Pacific Ocean Division(CEPOD)
  1. Alaska District CEPOA)
  2. Honolulu District (CEPOH)
South Pacific Division (CESPD)
  1. Albuquerque District (CESPA)
  2. Los Angeles District (CESPL)
  3. Sacramento District (CESPK)
  4. San Francisco District (CESPN)

Great Lakes and Ohio River Division (CELRD)

  1. Buffalo District (CELRB)
  2. Chicago District (CELRC)
  3. Detroit District (CELRE)
  4. Huntington District (CELRH)
  5. Louisville District (CELRL)
  6. Nashville District (CELRN)
  7. Pittsburgh District (CELRP)
Mississippi Valley Division (CEMVD)
  1. Memphis District (CEMVM)
  2. New Orleans District (CEMVN)
  3. Rock Island District (CEMVR)
  4. St. Louis District (CEMVS)
  5. St. Paul District (CEMVP)
  6. Vicksburg District (CEMVK)
Northwestern Division (CENWD)
  1. Kansas City District (CENWD)
  2. Omaha District (CENWO)
Southwestern Division (CESWD)
  1. Ft. Worth District (CESWF)
  2. Galveston District (CESWG)
  3. Little Rock District (CESWL)
  4. Tulsa District (CESWT)

North Atlantic Division (CENAD)
  1. Baltimore District (CENAB)
  2. New England District (CENAE)
  3. New York District (CENAN)
  4. Norfolk District (CENAO)
  5. Philadelphia District (CENAP)
South Atlantic Division (CESAD)
  1. Charleston District (CESAC)
  2. Jacksonville District (CESAJ)
  3. Mobile District (CESAM)
  4. Savannah District (CESAS)
  5. Wilmington District (CESAW)

Headquarters (HQUSACE)

The Engineer In Training program consists of structured education related to hydroelectric power design and construction across the nation, Corps of Engineers activities throughout the Northwest, and the mission of the Portland District. The program spans a 24-month time period, rotating assignments through various offices within the Portland District primarily and around the Corps. The following brochure provides further information about the EIT program. Click here for the engineer-in-training program brochure. (PDF)

About hydropower generation


The energy in water falling 60 feet is used to make electricity.

  1. The falling water spins the turbine.
  2. The generator converts spinning motion into electricity.
  3. Transformers raise the voltage of the electricity so less power is lost on the power line.
  4. The switch yard directs power onto different power lines. Fish passage guides migrating fish safely around the dam.
  5. The fish collection channel guides adult fish migrating upstream to the fish ladder.
1. The falling water spins the turbine. 3. Transformers raise the voltage of the electricity so less power is lost on the power line. 2. The generator converts spinning motion into electricity. 4. The switch yard directs power onto different power lines. 5. Fish passage guides migrating fish safely around the dam.  The fish collection channel guides adult fish migrating upstream to the fish ladder.