Monday, October 22, 2012

Hydropower Production

How much electricity do we get from hydropower today? Depending on the amount of rainfall, hydro plants produce from five to ten percent of the electricity produced in this country (the most was 10.1 percent in 1997, and the least was 5.6 percent in 2001). In Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, hydropower accounts for more than half (55 to 76 percent) of each state's electricity generation.
Today, there is about 78,000 megawatts of conventional hydro generating capacity in the United states, and about 98,000 megawatts when including pumped storage. That's equivalent to the generating capacity of 80 large nuclear power plants. The biggest hydro plant in the U.S. is located at the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River in northern Washington State. The United States also gets some hydropower generated electricity from Canada.
Some New England utilities buy this imported electricity. What does the future look like for hydropower? The most economical sites for hydropower dams in the U.S. have already been developed, so the development of big hydro plants is unlikely.
Existing plants could be modernized with turbine and generator upgrades, operational improvements, and adding generating capacity. Plus, many flood control dams not equipped for electricity production could be retrofitted with generating equipment. The National Hydropower Association estimates 60,000 megawatts of additional generating capacity could be developed in the United States by 2025.

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