The US Department of Energy, Department of the Interior and Department of the Army for Civil Works are to work together for a further five years in a bid to advance hydropower development in the country.

The three agencies signed a renewal agreement yesterday for an additional five years, committing them to a specific, ambitious agenda for hydropower, building upon their Memorandum of Understanding for Hydropower signed in March 2010.

The second phase of collaboration aims to support the Obama Administration’s goals for doubling renewable energy generation by 2020 and improving federal permitting processes for clean energy as called for in the President’s Climate Action Plan.

"Through the advancement of hydropower, the three agencies are helping meet President Obama’s goal of generating 80 percent of our energy from clean energy sources by 2035," Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael L. Connor said. "This agreement continues Interior’s commitment to renewable energy projects and expands on the original MOU by adding more goals and action items."

"Our collaboration with the Department of the Interior and the US Army Corps of Engineers enables our nation to responsibly expand America’s largest source of clean, renewable energy" added Deputy Secretary of Energy Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall. "I am excited about this opportunity to diversify our nation’s energy portfolio, boost our energy security, and reduce carbon emissions with the advanced hydropower technologies that the Department of Energy is helping to develop and deploy."

"As a leader in the hydropower industry, the Army is proud of our hydroelectric generation and greatly supports the extension of the original MOU as well as the Action Plan for Phase II," explained Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy. "It will help meet the Nation’s needs for reliable, affordable, and environmentally sustainable hydropower by building a long-term working relationship, prioritizing similar goals, and aligning ongoing and future renewable energy development efforts between DOE, DOI, and the Army Corps of Engineers."

Through continued collaboration and partnerships with other federal agencies, the hydropower industry, the research community, and numerous stakeholders, the agencies will work toward a number of objectives, including:

  • Improving the accuracy and reducing costs of water flow measurement technology, which, if successful, could increase generation at existing plants and improve the productivity of new hydropower systems yet to be installed.
  • Evaluating new superconducting generator technology that could significantly reduce the size and weight of generators for new hydropower projects, potentially leading to reduced costs and increased generator output for existing facilities.
  • Furthering development of low-impact, low-cost hydropower technologies suitable for demonstration and deployment at non-powered dams and conduits.
  • Developing design tools to improve the environmental performance of hydropower turbines for responsible deployment.
  • Further assessing the risks to US hydropower generation and water infrastructure posed by climate change.

Since the collaborative agreement was initiated in 2010, there has been an increased interest in private hydropower development at federal facilities. Following the 2010 MOU, ten non-federal projects, comprising 33MW of capacity, have come online at Bureau of Reclamation facilities, with an additional 40 projects initiated and currently in development. For the Army Corps of Engineers, three non-federal projects comprising 19.4MW of capacity have also come online, with an additional 32 projects initiated and currently in some stage of development.

Over the past five years, through collaboration and partnerships with other federal agencies, the hydropower industry, the research community, and numerous stakeholders, the agencies have successfully fulfilled the commitments of the original MOU. Examples of these accomplishments include:

  • Completing numerous publicly available assessments and studies of different hydropower resources, including constructing a database for all existing U.S. hydropower infrastructure.
  • Developing tools for optimizing the operation of hydropower facilities and evaluating the potential for state-of-the-art upgrades and modernizations.
  • Funding several research projects that develop and demonstrate new hydropower generation technologies and minimize the environmental impacts of hydropower facilities.
  • Delivering a report to Congress that examines the potential effects of climate change on water available for hydropower generation at federal facilities.
  • Developing and implementing an integrative approach to assess complementary hydropower and environmental opportunities within several different river basins across the United States.
  • Improving the licensing process for the development of new, privately owned hydropower generation at existing federal dams and water infrastructure.