Aerosol Impacts on the Hydrology and Hydropower Generation in California

Improving forecasts to operate hydropower units more efficiently.

The Regents of the University of California - Riverside


Riverside, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Result

The research team successfully ran a chemistry-aerosol-meteorological model and coupled this model with a model used by Southern California Edison (SCE) to operate their Big Creek Hydroelectric System. The modeling results suggest that aerosols induce a reduction of annual inflows on the order of 4% to 14% but that the reductions are more significant in the summer. The research team calculated the loss of generation and revenue and found that aerosols reduce hydropower generation by about 6%, which is equivalent to an annual loss of about $3 million a year. The final report was submitted and will be posted in the near future. The researchers have shared results with others via scientific conferences and journal publications. SCE was heavily involved with the research team during the execution of the project and co-authored a conference paper with the research team.

View Final Report

The Issue

Hydrologic forecasts for hydropower units can have substantial errors. This hampers the efficient management of hydropower units. Hydropower is a very important clean resource that provides peak generation in hot summer months and can provide electricity when wind and/or solar resources go down. Improving hydrologic forecasts could substantially increase these and other benefits obtained from hydropower units. Simulating the effect of aerosols (small particles in the air) into clouds and precipitation is a very promising option to improve weather/climate forecasts.

Project Innovation

The research team enhanced and used a fully coupled aerosol-meteorology-snowpack forecast model for hydropower applications, using observational datasets (precipitation, snowpack, stream inflow) for Southern California Edison's hydropower plant on Big Creek. The main goal was to estimate the impacts of aerosols on hydropower generation and explore the use of improved forecasts to improve the management of hydropower units.

Project Benefits

The proposed research is intended to significantly advance our knowledge of aerosol impacts on the hydrology and hydropower generation in California. The results of this project are expected to improve the management of hydropower units which should reduce overall electricity generation costs and assist with adaptation under a changing climate.

Lower Costs


The improved forecast should maximize California ratepayer benefits by increasing the hydroelectric power plant's availability, flexibility and revenue in the wholesale electricity market.

Environmental & Public Health

Environmental Sustainability

Improved hydropower management will foster the use of a clean and flexible generation resource during peak hours.

Key Project Members

Project Member

Nanpeng Yu




Regents of the University of California, Los Angeles


Match Partners


University of California, Riverside


University of California Los Angeles


Contact the Team