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Energy Department Eyes 65 GW of Hydropower

William Opalka

StreamssThe Energy Department and its Oak Ridge National Laboratory say the potential exists to develop 65 GW of new hydropower generation in waterways across the US. The report estimates that development across more than three million rivers and streams would be nearly equivalent to current hydropower capacity.

Hydropower makes up 7 percent of total US electricity generation and continues to be the United States’ largest source of renewable electricity, the Department said. But expansion of the resource is controversial.

The New Stream-reach Development Assessment capitalizes on recent advancements in geospatial datasets and represents the most detailed evaluation of hydropower potential at undeveloped streams and rivers to date.

The greatest hydropower potential was found in western 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 hydropower resource assessment also analyzed technical, socioeconomic and environmental characteristics that will help energy developers, policymakers and local communities identify the most promising locations for sustainable hydropower facilities. The assessment includes stream- and river-specific information on local wildlife habitats, protected lands, water use and quality and fishing access areas.

The New Stream-reach Development Assessment builds on a 2012 Energy Department assessment that found over 12 GW of hydropower potential at the nation’s existing 80,000 non-powered dams.

Coincidentally, the report is released just before the theatrical debut of an anti-hydropower movie “DamNation,” that describes itself as a “film odyssey across America that explores the sea change in our national attitude from pride in big dams as engineering wonders to the growing awareness that our own future is bound to the life and health of our rivers.”



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