U.S. has 65 GW of untapped hydroelectric power potential, DOE report says

The U.S. Department of Energy and its Oak Ridge National Laboratory have released a new renewable energy resource assessment that estimates as much as 65 GW of new hydroelectric power capacity could be developed across more than three million American rivers and streams.

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

Hydroelectric power currently makes up 7% of all of American electrical generation and continues to be its largest source of renewable energy, reducing more than 200 million metric tons of carbon emissions per year.

“The United States has tremendous untapped clean energy resources and responsible development will help pave the way to a cleaner, more sustainable and diverse energy portfolio,” Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said. “As the Energy Department works with industry, universities and state and local governments to advance innovative hydropower technologies, the resource assessment released today provides unparalleled insight into new hydropower opportunities throughout the country.”

The study also assesses technical, socioeconomic and environmental characteristics that will help energy developers, policymakers and local communities “identify the most promising locations for sustainable hydropower facilities,” DOE said, while also including “stream- and river-specific information on local wildlife habitats, protected lands, water use and quality and fishing access areas.”

Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington led the country in greatest hydropower potential, while Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Wyoming led the nation in new stream-reach hydropower potential.

The report builds on a previous assessment that uncovered more than 12 GW of hydroelectric potential at more than 80,000 existing non-powered dams.

The U.S. Department of Energy also announced an ambitious long-term plan for the development of America’s hydropower sector.