by Brianna Crandall — August 19, 2016 — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently released a new report looking at the future of hydropower through 2050. The report finds that with continued technology advancements, innovative market mechanisms, and a focus on environmental sustainability, hydropower in the United States could grow from 101 gigawatts (GW) to nearly 150 GW of combined electricity generation and storage capacity by 2050. Achieving this growth would help advance America’s low-carbon economy and leverage renewable energy sources, says DOE.
Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz pointed out:
Hydropower has provided clean, affordable, and reliable electricity in the United States for more than a century, and pumped storage complements today’s rapidly growing variable technologies such as wind and solar. The Hydropower Vision report clearly shows an expanded role for hydropower and pumped storage in our clean energy future.
The Hydropower Vision report highlights key advances in pumped storage that can create an additional 36 GW of capacity, more than doubling the current capacity of 21.6 GW in the United States. As more of the nation’s electricity comes from wind and solar energy, hydropower and pumped-storage hydropower resources can provide the flexibility and reliability the electricity grid needs to deliver affordable clean energy to American homes and businesses.
Public health and environmental benefits of hydropower
The Hydropower Vision report also highlights the current and future public health and environmental benefits of hydropower. Between now and 2050, hydropower could save $209 billion from avoided damages from greenhouse gas emissions, $58 billion from avoided healthcare costs and economic damages due to air pollution, and 30 trillion gallons of water that would otherwise be used for steam generation or power plant cooling.
U.S. hydropower and pumped storage has the potential to increase and support the nation’s renewable energy portfolio while providing economic development by supporting more than 195,000 jobs, and to result in $150 billion in cumulative economic development by 2050.
The report includes a roadmap that defines a range of actions needed to realize the economic and social benefits of increased hydropower in the future based on three foundational “pillars” of optimization, growth, and environmental sustainability. The roadmap finds that driving long-term cost reductions will require continued technology development and collaboration among industry experts, federal agencies, and academia.
Funding for hydropower projects
The Energy Department also announced $9.8 million in available funding for up to 12 projects to develop innovative technologies that will reduce capital costs and deployment timelines for pumped-storage hydropower and non-powered dams. The pumped-storage projects will study the feasibility of innovative concepts for closed-loop pumped-storage hydropower systems.
Today, only three percent of the nation’s dams currently generate electricity. The non-powered dam technology projects will help tap this resource by supporting the development of low-head, modular designs that can reduce infrastructure and construction costs and operate flexibly over a range of conditions at existing dams.
The pumped-storage and non-powered dams projects support DOE’s HydroNEXT initiative by developing and accelerating deployment of innovative hydropower technologies that lower costs, improve performance, and promote environmental stewardship.
The report, Hydropower Vision: A New Chapter for America’s First Renewable Electricity Source, is available on the DOE Web site, as is more information about Hydropower Vision. For more information on water power research, development, testing, and deployment see the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Water Power Program Web site.