Hydroelectric Design Center

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.

Our hydropower engineering work is spread throughout the Corps, in nine divisions and 38 districts.


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


  • 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

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.

Functions and services

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:

  • 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. 

This section provides 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 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. 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.



The Engineer-in-Training program within HDC 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. (See the EIT program brochure here.)