The Department of Energy released on April 17th an evaluation of the potential to produce electricity using hydro power technologies on existing dams in the US that are not currently used for this purpose. According to the report without constructing any new dams the country could get an additional load of more than 12 gigwats (GW) which is about 15% of the hydropower currently being produced. The findings of the report are a good example of a way that the country can diversify its energy portfolio and move towards the 80% target of clean energy by 2035 set the by government.
The report, (An Assessment of Energy Potential at Non-Powered Dams in the United States) analyzed more than 54 thousands potential sites that could be used to produce power. The findings show that non-powered dams have the capacity, if fully utilized, of powering more than four million homes.
States with the highest hydropower potential are Alabama, Ohio, Mississippi and Arkansas Rivers. The facilities are owned by US Army Corps of Engineers. The potential of the top 10 sites is estimated to have a production potential of around 3 GW whereas the top one hundred sites have almost 3 times that potential at around 8 GW. The report claims that a significant number of the dams analyzed can be transformed to power generating facilities with minimum impact on wildlife and the environment.
In addition according to the report’s findings many of the potential hydropower sites are in areas where there are fewer solar or wind resources. Thus, it will give the surrounding communities an additional way to get renewable energy for their businesses and the families. Given the fact that hydropower has a reliable base load power throughout the day, using current dams could give additional flexibility to the electric grid allowing for utilities to combine other renewable energy sources (i.e. solar and wind power.)