A new report published by the US Department of Energy has hinted at a 50% growth in the country’s already impressive hydropower sector.
In a new report published this week by the US Department of Energy (DOE), entitled Hydropower Vision: A New Chapter for America’s First Renewable Electricity Source, experts found that with continued technological advancements, innovative market mechanisms, and a focus on environmental stability, the country’s hydropower capacity could grow from its current 101 GW to nearly 150 GW of combined electricity generation and storage capacity by 2050.
“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,” said US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. “The Hydropower Vision report clearly shows an expanded role for hydropower and pumped storage in our clean energy future.”
At the same time as releasing the report, the US Energy Department has also announced its intention this week to fund $9.8 million for up to 12 projects which would develop innovative technologies to help reduce capital costs and deployment timelines for pumped-storage hydropower and non-powered dams.
In the United States, hydropower already provides around 7% of the country’s electricity, and supports more than 143,000 jobs in engineering, manufacturing, construction, and utility operations & maintenance. Though some critics of hydropower point out its sometimes heavy carbon emission load during construction, further innovation in construction will only serve to make hydropower an increasingly more carbon neutral renewable energy.
Specifically, the Hydropower Vision report highlights key advancements that have been made in pumped-storage, which the report’s authors believe can create an additional 36 GW of capacity, more than doubling the existing pumped-storage capacity of 21.6 GW. Pumped-storage facilities will serve as vital components in the country’s future energy grid, providing stable generation to serve as backup to the more intermittent technologies like solar and wind.
To further the development of these technologies, the Department of Energy has issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement of $9.8 million for up to 12 projects. The funding is intended to support the Water Power Program’s HydroNEXT initiative, aimed at lowering costs, improving performance, and promoting environmental stewardship across both non-powered dams and pumped-storage hydropower.