There is potential for over 65 GW of new hydropower development – almost equivalent to the current US hydropower capacity – across 3 million US rivers and streams that do not currently have hydroelectric facilities, according to a new report commissioned by the US Department of Energy.

Hydropower currently accounts for around seven per cent of total US electricity generation, but could ‘double its contributions by the year 2030,’ according to US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

The New Stream-reach Development Assessment carried out by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, found the greatest hydropower potential in western US 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 assessment utilised state-of-the-art geospatial datasets to evaluate the national hydropower potential and was designed specifically for smaller and more environmental-feasible run-of-river hydropower development. It provides ‘unparalleled insight’ into new hydropower opportunities throughout the US, Moniz says.

The assessment also looked at ‘technical, socioeconomic and environmental characteristics’ that will help energy developers, policymakers and local communities identify the most promising locations for sustainable hydropower facilities. It builds on a study carried out in 2012, which found over 12 GW of hydropower potential at the nation’s existing 80,000 non-powered dams.