New research from the Worldwatch Institute suggests that growth in hydroelectric power development tapered in 2011, according to a recently published report.
The institution said that worldwide consumption and installed capacity of hydropower have increased steadily since 2003, though the global installed capacity of hydro projects increased just 970 GW -- or 1.6% -- in 2011 from the previous year.
The report also noted that geothermal growth has also slowed, dipping to below a 1% increase for the first time since 2002.
Both forms of power generation still offer distinct advantages, however, according to Worldwatch Institute research associate Evan Musolino.
"Despite the recent slowdown in growth, the overall market for hydropower and geothermal power is increasing in part because these two sources are not subject to the variability in generation that plagues other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar," Musolino said. "The greater reliability of hydro and geothermal can thus be harnessed to provide reliable baseload power."
According to the report, the bulk of global capacity remains concentrated in five countries with China leading the way with 212 GW of installed hydroelectric capacity. Brazil follows (82.2 GW), then the United States (79 GW), Canada (76.4 GW) and Russia (46 GW).
Hydropower contributes less to the overall percent of energy usage in the Middle East, though that region experienced the greatest growth in hydroelectric consumption at almost 22%. North America followed, with an increase slightly below 14%. Meanwhile, usage in Europe and Eurasia fell by almost 9%, and by 0.6% in the Asia Pacific region.
Still, "hydropower continues to be one of the most cost-effective renewable energy generation sources," Worldwatch Institute said, with typical costs in the U.S. ranging from $.02-.13 per kWh for existing grid-connected hydroelectric plants and $.05-.10 per kWh for new hydro projects. Meanwhile, micro hydro projects generate at about $.05-.40 per kWh.
Despite Worldwatch Institute's report, an article published in the April 2012 edition of Hydro Review magazine shows continued growth in the hydropower sector through at least the end of the decade.