Hydro power once averaged over 20% of U.S. electric power sector net generation in 1970. Over the past decade (2004–2013), hydro power provided an average of 6.8% of U.S. electric power sector net generation. Untapped non-power dam (NPD) resources will transform small hydro into a major energy source.
The U.S. Administration’s goal is to generate 80% of the nation’s electricity to clean energy sources by 2035 and lead the world in clean energy innovation.
The hydro power resource assessment by the Department of Energy’s Hydropower Program has identified 5,677 sites in the United States with acceptable undeveloped hydro power potential. These sites have a modeled undeveloped capacity of about 30,000 MW. This represents about 40 percent of the existing conventional hydro power capacity.
The 80,000+ non-powered facilities represent the vast majority of dams in the country; more than 90% of dams are used for services, such as regulating water supply and controlling inland navigation, and lack electricity-generating equipment.
An assessment of energy potential from new stream-reach development in the United States led by DOE’s ORNL provides a national picture of the remaining new hydropower development opportunities in U.S. rivers and streams. The assessment concluded that the technical resource potential is 85 GW of capacity. When federally protected lands—national parks, national wild and scenic rivers, and wilderness areas—are excluded, the remaining potential is over 60 GW of capacity or 347 TWh/year of generation.
Power stations can likely be added to many of these dams at a lower cost than creating new powered dam structures. Together, these non-power dam (NPD) facilities could power millions of households and avoid millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
Only 3 percent of the nation’s 80,000 dams currently generate electricity, and as we move to a clean energy economy, it is vital that we tap these unused resources. Continue reading Untapped Hydro Resources