Hydropower capacity in the United States could be doubled with minimal impact to the environment, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said during a recent White House forum in Pennsylvania.
Chu dismissed the notion that U.S. hydropower production has peaked.
Chu said the industry could add 70,000 megawatts of capacity by installing more efficient turbines at existing dams, increasing the use of pumped-storage projects, and encouraging the use of run-of-the-river turbines.
“We will be pushing this,” Chu said. “We’re not talking about a lot of large, new reservoirs. Just work with what we have and it’s a massive amount of power.”
Hydropower accounts for 6 percent of the nation’s electricity consumption and nearly 75 percent of renewable power, according to the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Energy. But just 3 percent of the nation’s more than 82,000 dams generate electricity.
Hydropower is “astoundingly efficient,” Chu said. “It’s an incredible opportunity and it’s actually the lowest cost clean energy option.”
Mark Garner, chief executive officer of Voith Hydro, said hydropower plants generate 98,000 megawatts of electricity and support about 300,000 jobs in the United States.
“Hydro works,” Garner said. “It’s a clean and renewable source of green energy that makes sense from both economic and energy demand perspectives.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said a major expansion of U.S. hydropower capacity is long overdue.
“The advances in the technology are so good,” Rendell said. “Given the water ways in this country, we are sorely under using one of the cleanest sources of energy on the Earth.”