Sunday, October 21, 2012

Future Potential of Hydropower

What is the full potential of hydropower to help meet the Nation=s energy needs? The hydropower resource assessment by the Department of Energy=s Hydropower Program has identified 5,677 sites in the United States with acceptable undeveloped hydropower potential. These sites have a modeled undeveloped capacity of about 30,000 MW. This represents about 40 percent of the existing conventional hydropower capacity.

A variety of restraints exist on this development, some natural and some imposed by our society. The natural restraints include such things as occasional unfavorable terrain for dams. Other restraints include disagreements about who should develop a resource or the resulting changes in environmental conditions. Often, other developments already exist where a hydroelectric power facility would require a dam and reservoir to be built.

Finding solutions to the problems imposed by natural restraints demands extensive engineering efforts. Sometimes a solution is impossible, or so expensive that the entire project becomes impractical. Solution to the societal issues is frequently much more difficult and the costs are far greater than those imposed by nature. Developing the full potential of hydropower will require consideration and coordination of many varied needs.

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