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Can the US fulfil its hydropower potential?

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Hydropower has provided clean and reliable energy for more than a century and is now responsible for generating roughly 10% of US energy, remaining one of the largest sources of renewable energy and powering over 20million homes!

However, it has been suggested that the US still haven’t fully tapped into a world of hydroelectric potential. So will hydropower play a vital role in the US renewable revolution?

The answer is yes. It’s estimated that the US has approximately 2,500 conventional hydropower and pumped storage plants, five of which have a higher capacity than the world famous Hoover Dam – once the world’s largest dam. Nowadays, not only does the hydropower industry supply in excess of 55,000 direct jobs, supporting the nation’s economy, but it also puts the US as the fourth biggest hydropower player in the world succeeded only by China, Brazil and Canada.

But what’s next for the industry?

Well the US’ main priority lies in increasing hydropower generation at their existing plants in a bid to retain hydropower in the mix and help achieve their newly pledged target of 50% renewable energy by 2025.

According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, approximately $6billion has been invested over the last decade to facilitate renovation projects across the entire US hydropower fleet. This also involves partnerships with some 172 companies producing numerous hydropower components, from turbines to valves.

Energy giants are also jumping on the bandwagon, with Duke Energy announcing the expansion of their 1,065-MW Bad Creek pumped storage project last week. Of the announcement, Duke Energy’s Corporate Communications Specialist Kim Crawford stated: “The upgrade is part of our strategy to increase renewable energy and reduce our carbon footprint. The additional energy storage will provide a benefit to more renewables in the region. It will also help meet our winter peak demand in the morning hours — when solar power is typically not available.”

In addition to this a report released by the Department of Energy identified non-powered dams to hold vast possibility. Whilst 97% of existing dams in the US are not equipped to generate power, it is reported that 100 existing dams could increase current hydropower output by 15%.

What’s more is that by investing in new and existing hydropower projects as well as new technologies, the US can improve flexibility and security of the power grid.

It’s safe to say that hydropower is still well and truly in the mix and will be for years to come. The extent to which, however, remains in vague.