Energy Department report finds major potential to increase clean, sustainable U.S. hydropower
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory on Tuesday released a renewable energy resource assessment detailing the potential to develop new electric power generation in waterways across the United States. The report estimates that there are more than 65 gigawatts (GW) of potential new hydropower development across more than three million U.S. rivers and streams. That’s nearly equivalent to the current U.S. hydropower capacity, a press release said.
The release said the findings demonstrate one of the ways the United States can further diversify its energy portfolio with sustainable and clean domestic power generation.
“The United States has tremendous untapped clean energy resources and responsible development will help pave the way to a cleaner, more sustainable and diverse energy portfolio,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said. “As the Energy Department works with industry, universities, and state and local governments to advance innovative hydropower technologies, the resource assessment released today provides unparalleled insight into new hydropower opportunities throughout the country.”
Hydropower makes up 7 percent of total U.S. electricity generation and continues to be the United States’ largest source of renewable electricity, avoiding more than 200 million metric tons of carbon emissions each year, the press release said. Hydropower also provides reliable baseload power day and night—providing greater flexibility and diversity to the electric grid and allowing utilities to integrate other renewable sources such as wind and solar power, the release said.
It said the New Stream-reach Development Assessment released on Tuesday capitalizes on recent advancements in geospatial datasets and represents the most detailed evaluation of U.S. hydropower potential at undeveloped streams and rivers to date. The greatest hydropower potential was found in western U.S. states, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming led the rest of the country in new stream-reach hydropower potential.
The hydropower resource assessment also analyzed technical, socioeconomic, and environmental characteristics that will help energy developers, policymakers, and local communities identify the most promising locations for sustainable hydropower facilities. The assessment includes stream- and river-specific information on local wildlife habitats, protected lands, water use and quality, and fishing access areas.
The New Stream-reach Development Assessment builds on a 2012 Energy Department assessment that found more than 12 GW of hydropower potential at the nation’s existing 80,000 non-powered dams, the press release said. The results of the resource assessment released today show that there are still many opportunities to develop new hydropower projects around the country, most of which would likely be smaller, run-of-river facilities that could utilize new low-impact designs and technologies. Find the full stream-reach resource assessment as well as additional maps and data on new hydropower potential.