U.S. finds nearly 130,000 sites feasible for hydro development

There are nearly 130,000 sites throughout the United States where it is feasible to develop new hydropower projects representing a total potential of 30,000 average megawatts, the Department of Energy said Feb. 15.

A new DOE report finds about 5,400 of the sites could be developed as small hydro plants with capacities of 1 to 30 MWa, representing more than 18,000 MWa. The other sites could be developed as low-power sites of less than 1 MWa, it said.

Average power is the average rate at which a hydropower plant generates electricity over the course of a year, which, typically, is about half of the nameplate capacity.

To develop the latest report, investigators evaluated 500,000 “water energy resource sites” identified in a 2004 DOE study to identify which ones feasibly could be developed. Investigators evaluated sites using criteria including site accessibility, load or transmission proximity, and land use or environmental sensitivities that would make development unlikely.

Six western states have highest hydro potential

Six western states -� Alaska, California, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and Washington �- emerged with the highest power potential, DOE said. It said Hawaii and Washington have the highest densities of hydropower potential that feasibly could be developed.

The DOE report concluded feasible opportunities represent a potential for doubling U.S. hydro generation, not including pumped-storage hydro. However, DOE said it might be more realistic to estimate hydroelectric generation could be increased by more than 50 percent.

DOE said the majority of the identified feasible hydropower potential could be harnessed without building new dams, and by using existing techniques and technologies.

The two-part report is on the Internet at http:\hydropower.inl.govresourceassessment. One file contains the body of the report, which presents the technical approach, results, conclusions, and recommendations for more research; and Appendix A, which describes exclusion zones where hydropower development is unlikely. The second file contains Appendix B, which presents results for each of the 50 states.

Study results can be viewed using the Virtual Hydropower Prospector, which DOE unveiled in 2005. The geographical information system application is on the Internet at http:\hydropower.inl.govprospector.

The new report, released in February, was prepared for DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program, Idaho Operations Office. DOE previously announced it plans to dismantle its hydropower R&D program by the end of September.

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