Industry calls for passage of Hydropower Improvement Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. 9/21/11 (PennWell) – Developers of one of the largest deployments of new hydropower generation in the U.S. are calling on President Obama and Senate lawmakers to pass legislation that would promote the development of new hydropower capacity and create jobs in the U.S.

Voith Hydro is supplying turbines and generators for four run-of-river hydropower projects on the Ohio River. The projects are being developed by American Municipal Power. Each project will create 200 to 400 new construction jobs. Voith said it created 126 jobs in the last three years to serve these and other planned hydropower projects.

Both companies issued a joint press release Sept. 21 urging Obama and lawmakers to pass the Hydropower Improvement Act, which passed the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee in April and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.

The measure “would go a long way to help us meet hydropower’s potential by streamlining the regulatory process and improving research and development at the Department of Energy,” said Kevin Frank, president and chief executive officer of Voith Hydro. “In the process, we will create good-paying jobs across the country.”

Sponsored by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the Hydropower Improvement Act urges regulators to consider a two-year licensing process for hydropower projects at existing non-powered dams and closed-loop pumped storage projects. What’s more, the legislation would establish competitive grants for adding generation equipment to non-powered dams, more capacity to existing hydro facilities and efficiency improvements to existing plants.

“We consider hydropower the highest value renewable energy resource due to its day-ahead forecasting benefits and availability factor, which is two to three times that of wind or solar,” said Mark Gerken, president and CEO of AMP. “Improving efficiency of the permitting processes… will encourage more job creation and greater project economics for both AMP and the hydropower industry at large.”

Of the 84,000 dams in the U.S., only 3 percent are used to generate electricity.

A new study by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory shows that the U.S. could add 12,600 MW of renewable power capacity to the grid by adding hydropower to 54,000 existing dams. Most of that potential – 8,000 MW – is concentrated at 100 dams in the south and Midwest, the study found.

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