Adding hydropower to non-hydro dams offers huge development potential

Many hydropower developers are eyeing non-powered dams as an option for adding generation. In the United States, only a small percentage of dams are used to generate electricity, leaving much potential in adding hydro generation to existing non-hydro dams.

The number of proposals to build new hydropower capacity in the United States is up about 30 percent from two years ago, federal regulatory officials reported. Many of such proposals are at existing federal dams.

It has been estimated that, of the 82,000 U.S. dams, only 3 percent are used to generate electricity.

Currently, it takes about five years to obtain a license to install hydro capacity at existing non-powered dams. The National Hydropower Association has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to cut the licensing process down to two years by establishing a more efficient system.

At the upcoming HydroVision International 2010 event in Charlotte, N.C., a session in the Policies and Regulations track is dedicated to the subject of developing hydropower generation at facilities not originally designed for hydroelectric power generation. Technical issues, regulatory issues and other important topics related to hydropower development at non-hydro facilities will be covered during the session.

The HydroVision International Conference and Exhibition, the year’s largest gathering of hydropower professionals, is planned for July 27-30, 2010, at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Presently, the United States has about 100,000 megawatts of hydropower capacity. A recent study by Navigant Consulting Inc. shows that the technical potential is around 400,000 megawatts. Adding hydropower to existing dams could play a significant role in adding hydropower capacity in the United States.

The Navigant study estimates the industry could add 60,000 megawatts of new capacity by 2025. Up to 700,000 jobs could be created by 2025 if the potential for new capacity is met, the study shows.

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