A new report from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory estimates that there is potential for over 65GW of new hydropower development across more than three million rivers and streams in the United States.

New Stream-reach Development Assessment, released 29 April, uses an innovative geographic approach to analyse the potential for new hydropower development in US stream segments that do not currently have hydroelectric facilities.

Almost a third of the potential capacity was identified in the Pacific Northwest Region, with the greatest potential for hydropower found in western US states, principally Oregon (8920MW), Idaho (7018MW), Washington (7381MW) and California (6983MW). Elsewhere in the country Kansas (2479MW), Missouri (2512MW), Pennsylvania (2889MW) and Wyoming (2960MW) had the highest new stream-reach hydropower potential.

"Hydropower can double its contributions by the year 2030"

"Hydropower can double its contributions by the year 2030," said US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. "We have to pick up the covers off of this hidden renewable that’s right in front of our eyes and continues to have significant potential."

Hydropower currently accounts for around seven percent of total US electricity generation. The new stream-reach report builds on a 2012 Department of Energy study that identified 12GW of capacity at existing 80,000 non-powered dams in the United States.

Charting a new vision for US hydropower

DOE also announced a ‘new partnership’ with the industry to develop a long-term vision for the future of hydropower in the United States over the next year.

"The industry is excited to be partnering with DOE to establish a clear vision for hydropower’s future in the United States," said executive director of the National Hydropower Association Linda Church Ciocci. "The knowledge and expertise of the diverse cross-section of the industry and its stakeholders involved in this unprecedented initiative promises to produce a roadmap that will enable hydropower to provide Americans additional low-cost, reliable renewable electricity."

Hydropower potential in the USA (Map source ORNL)


Photo: New hydropower development potential in the United States (Source: ORNL)