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Idaho National Laboratory

Virtual Hydropower Prospector

The VHP is a geographic information system (GIS) tool designed to assist you in locating and assessing natural stream water energy resources in the United States.

VHP uses popup windows. It will not operate properly if window popup is disabled. If you need help to enable popups in your browser, Popup Enabling in the navigation on the left side of this page provides detailed instructions.

VHP displays the locations of U.S. natural stream water energy resources and their gross power potential as determined by an analytical process. It also shows you the locations of feasible potential hydropower projects which have been determined using a set of feasibility criteria. For these potential projects, a more realistic power potential has been estimated using realistic development criteria. Context features such as cities, roads, power infrastructure, land use, etc. can be displayed to assist you in performing preliminary site assessments. VHP uses data sources not requiring a license for public display. A list of data sources is accessible by selecting the Data Sources button in the application toolbar above the application title, or in the website navigation on the left.

The location of features and the associated attribute information are for indication only. Actual on-site locations, measurements, and evaluations must be undertaken to verify information presented by VHP and assess a site’s feasibility for development. Disclaimers regarding the use of VHP are available from a link in the website navigation on the left.

VHP was developed by the Idaho National Laboratory in support of the U.S. Department of Energy Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program under contract DE-AC07-051D14517. The methods used to identify the water energy resource sites displayed by this tool and to estimate their gross potential are described in Water Energy Resources of the United States with Emphasis on Low Head/Low Power Resources, DOE/ID-11111, April 2004.

The methods and criteria that were used to identify feasible potential hydropower projects and estimate their power potential using a set of development criteria are described in Feasibility Assessment of the Water Energy Resources of the United States for Low Power and Small Hydroelectric Plants, DOE/ID-11263.

In addition to hydropower resource assessment data produced by INL, VHP includes resource assessment data from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Hydropower Resource Assessment at Existing Reclamation Facilities ( 14MB PDF) published in March 2011.

Introduction for New Users

VHP is a GIS tool. You do not need to possess a software license to use this tool. It is being served to you from a computer at the Idaho National Laboratory. The previous VHP version was launched in November 2005. It was built using the ESRI ArcIMS platform. The current version, launched in November 2010 is built on the ESRI Arc Server platform, which provides additional features and flexibility.

The current version offers several new features:

Map Legend

The map view when the application is initiated is a color shaded relief map of the conterminous U.S. Maps of Alaska and Hawaii are displayed by selecting the icons at the left hand end of the toolbar above the map view. Alternate background maps are selected using the radio buttons at the right hand end of the toolbar above the map view.

The map will have certain basic sets of features "turned on." On the left-hand side of the VHP desktop is a legend which lists all of the available feature sets. The legend is provided in folders to allow it to be minimized. Click on a folder to see the feature sets inside.

Features are displayed by clicking on (checking) the box next to the feature set name. Below the feature set name is the symbol or symbols that are used to display these features on the map. The map view will automatically refresh each time you select or deselect a feature set.

Map Navigation Controls

The map navigation controls are located in the center of the toolbar above the map view. Each of the icons has a hover feature that will tell you the name of the control. It won’t be long before you won’t need this prompt. The map navigation controls from left to right are described below.

Thumbnail Map On/Off lets you turn the thumbnail map in the upper left corner of the map view on or off. The thumbnail map is keyed to the map view. It shows you what part of the conterminous U.S., Alaska, or Hawaii you’re looking at.

The Zoom In. Zoom-Out, Pan, and Full Extent buttons control the amount of real estate you’re looking at in the map:

Previous Extent and Next Extent let you go backwards and forwards in selecting map views you have defined with the above four map controls.

Some features are zoom controlled. That is, they only appear when you’re zoomed in to a small area. These features [e.g., National Hydrography Dataset (NHD)] are so pervasive that they will cover the whole viewing area if viewed at a larger map extent - they will be all you see.

Information and Selection Tools

The Find through Query buttons in the right hand toolbar, allow you to select features to obtain detailed information about them resulting in these features being accented on the map. The attribute data for the specific features you selected are displayed in a table at the bottom of the VHP desktop called the Information Window. The contents of this information table can be exported as a CSV file that can be opened with Excel.

There are two things about the Information and Selection Tools to keep in mind:

  1. The user interface for each of these tools requires the user to select a feature set of interest from a dropdown menu (the Buffer tool requires two such selections).
  2. Each record in the Information Window provides four options at the beginning of the list of attributes for displaying attribute information or locating the feature. From left to right they are:
    1. A page icon for displaying attributes in a vertical page format
    2. A magnifying glass icon, which will zoom the map view to the general area of the feature and mark it on the map with a pushpin
    3. An icon to clear the automatically inserted pushpin from the zoom to described in (b)
    4. A pushpin icon that toggles a pushpin on and off at the feature location.

Here is a brief description of these tools:

There are three additional tools in the right hand toolbar:

There are three icons in a toolbar above the application title, Data Sources, Print, and Links.

Hope this helps getting you started. Good luck prospecting. The country’s natural stream water energy resources are at your finger tips!

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