A 2009-2010 study conducted by Navigant Consulting, Inc. determined that more than 400,000 MW of untapped hydropower resources exist in the United States – including existing dams with no hydropower facilities, hydropower dams with opportunities for efficiency improvements or expanded capacity, and sites conducive to pumped storage systems or marine or hydrokinetic technologies. Navigant also estimated that with supportive policies, the industry could add 60,000 MW of capacity and create 1.4 million cumulative jobs by 2025.
On April 6, 2011, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a briefing on hydropower, a clean, renewable, baseload power source. The U.S. hydropower industry provides approximately seven percent of our electricity and employs 200,000-300,000 people in project development and deployment, manufacturing, operations and maintenance. Hydroelectric pumped storage facilities also provide reliable and cost-effective energy storage, helping stabilize the grid by balancing electricity supply and demand.
This briefing examined the full spectrum of water power technologies – including incremental hydropower, ocean, tidal, in-stream hydrokinetic, and pumped storage – as well as geographic areas for potential growth in hydropower capacity, the job growth and economic benefits of hydropower development, and federal policy options to help the industry grow while protecting important environmental values. Case studies were presented by Kleinschmidt Associates, an engineering firm supporting a conventional hydro facility expansion on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania; Eagle Crest Energy, a developer of a closed-loop pumped storage project in Southern California; and York, Pennsylvania-based Voith Hydro, a turbine and generator supplier for new hydro projects on existing dams on the Ohio River and others.
- Hydropower has the lowest levelized cost of electricity of any energy source at 2 cents per kilowatt hour, and is one of the few resources to offer large-scale, affordable means of storing and deploying electricity (through pumped storage).
- Pumped storage is like a giant battery for the grid. Water is pumped through reversible turbines from lower to upper reservoirs when electricity demand is low, and then released through the turbines to generate electricity when demand is high.
- Hydropower currently contributes 96,000 megawatts (MW) to the grid, including pumped storage, and the industry has set a goal to double this. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is currently working on permits for 394 projects in 47 states, representing 88,000 MW (30,000 MW of pumped storage).
- Every state has potential for hydropower projects, whether conventional, in stream hydro-kinetic projects, ocean wave and tidal energy, or pumped storage.
- Out of the 80 percent of the nation’s electricity that Obama would like coming from clean energy sources by 2035, 20 percent of that can be met with hydropower.
- Out of approximately 80,000 dams in the United States, only 3 percent have hydropower capacity.
- In 2009, the use of hydropower avoided 196 million metric tons of carbon emissions – equivalent to taking 38 million cars off the road.
- A study by Navigant Consulting found that the hydropower industry has potential to add 60,000 MW of new capacity and create 1.4 million jobs, direct, indirect, or induced, by 2025 with policy support from the federal government.
- Two pumps accounting for 66 MW of generation at the Holtwood Hydroelectric Plant, on the Susquehanna River in southeastern Pennsylvania, can produce enough renewable energy to power over 100,000 homes.
- A pumped storage project under development by Eagle Mountain Energy in southeastern California will provide over 500 direct and indirect jobs throughout its four year construction and 50 permanent jobs once operations begin.
- Voith Hydro, a hydroelectric equipment manufacturer headquartered in York, PA, employs 550 people in the United States, and created 126 jobs in the last three years. In 2010, Voith made over $63 million in purchases from U.S. companies.
- The hydropower industry has made many improvements to make turbines much more efficient and environmentally friendly, with major considerations for fish and their swimming patterns.
- Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and seven other Senators have introduced the Hydropower Improvement Act (S. 629) to improve efficiencies at existing facilities as well as licensing processes for proposed projects, and will provide federal grants for environmental studies and mitigation efforts to help all types of hydropower projects.
- The National Hydropower Association supports a clean energy standard of 80 percent, an expedited licensing process for minimal impact projects, a long term extension of the production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC), and an update of the PTC to give hydropower the same credit as other renewable energy sources (it currently receives only half).