The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently released a report detailing a vision for increasing the nation’s hydropower capacity by 50% by 2050. Despite a variety of technical, environmental, and market challenges to be overcome, the report concludes that there remain significant opportunities for future hydropower development in the United States. Those opportunities come particularly through upgrades to existing hydropower facilities, adding power generation capacity to existing dams and canals, and development of new pumped storage capacity. In the Pacific Northwest, the nation’s hydropower leader, the potential for new hydro development in undammed stream reaches is limited largely due to environmental constraints associated with fish habitat protections. However, there are still significant regional opportunities to optimize the use of existing infrastructure to increase hydropower capacity. In particular, through development of in-conduit hydropower and pumped storage hydropower facilities, the region could reap benefits ranging from increased grid reliability, improved ability to incorporate intermittent renewable power sources like wind energy, and reduced carbon emissions.
Read more: The Future of Hydropower in the Pacific Northwest