When a project is considered for an EERE award, one might assume that DOE is the only Federal agency that will review it, but this is not always the case. In order to assure that taxpayer dollars are being spent on safe, effective projects that meet all Federal regulations, EERE frequently collaborates with other Federal departments during the approval process.
A great example of this can be found in one Western U.S. state where a private company was awarded an EERE grant through its state energy office for an innovative hydropower project. The project proposed to utilize power from water flowing through a concrete diversion canal into a large nearby river. The water flows through the canal at very high speeds and the company saw this as a great untapped source of hydropower. The company was awarded a grant to harness this energy by installing a small turbine-generator in the canal.
The project was of course subject to the standard EERE approval process, including a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review. However, the nature of this project required the expertise and approval of some other Federal agencies that help to manage the nation’s natural resources. Because of the public water source involved, the project could not move forward until it had been reviewed and approved by the United States Bureau of Reclamation within the Department of the Interior (DOI). The recipient also consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, also part of DOI, to ensure the project would not have negative impacts on local wildlife. The Department of Energy worked with these other agencies to make sure that Federal regulations were being followed and appropriate environmental precautions were being taken, while moving forward with a project to turn a natural resource into renewable energy.