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Hydroelectric power in the United States

The Hoover Dam, when completed in 1936, was both the world's largest electric-power generating station and the world's largest concrete structure.
Hoover Dam power station

Hydroelectricity is, as of 2019, the second-largest renewable source of energy in both generation and nominal capacity (behind wind power) in the United States.[1] In 2021, hydroelectric power produced 31.5% of the total renewable electricity, and 6.3% of the total U.S. electricity.[2]

According to the International Hydropower Association, the United States is the 3rd largest producer of hydroelectric power in the world in 2021 after Brazil and China.[3] Total installed capacity for 2020 was 102,8 GW. The installed capacity was 80 GW in 2015. The amount of hydroelectric power generated is strongly affected by changes in precipitation and surface runoff.[4]

Hydroelectric stations exist in at least 34 US states. The largest concentration of hydroelectric generation in the US is in the Columbia River basin, which in 2012 was the source of 44% of the nation's hydroelectricity.[5] Hydroelectricity projects such as Hoover Dam, Grand Coulee Dam, and the Tennessee Valley Authority have become iconic large construction projects.

Of note, however, is that California does not consider power generated from large hydroelectric facilities (facilities greater than 30 megawatts) to meet its strictest definition of "renewable", due to concerns over the environmental impact of large hydroelectric projects. As such, electricity generated from large hydroelectric facilities does not count toward California's strict Renewable Portfolio Standards, even though other states recognize that water is a renewable resource in the hydrological cycle. Roughly about 10 to 15 percent of California's energy generation is from large hydroelectric generation that is not RPS-eligible.[6]

The significant impact of dams on the power sector, water use, river flow, and environmental concerns requires significant policy specific to hydropower.

History

US hydropower generated 1949-2008 (blue), and hydropower as percent of total US electricity (red).
Monthly hydroelectric power generation in the US, 2008–2012. Hydroelectric power varies with seasonal stream flows.

The earliest hydroelectric power generation in the U.S. was utilized for lighting and employed the better understood direct current (DC) system to provide the electrical flow. It did not flow far however, with ten miles being the system's limit; solving electricity's transmission problems would come later and be the greatest incentive to the new hydroelectric water-power developments.[7]

The first DC powerhouse was in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the water turbine at the Wolverine Chair factory was attached to a dynamo using a mechanical belt drive to illuminate sixteen street lights.[8][9] This occurred in 1880, the same year Thomas Edison produced the long-lasting incandescent filament light bulb, which was a safety and convenience improvement over existing candles, whale oil lamps and kerosene lamps inside buildings. In 1881, also using DC for lighting at Niagara Falls, Jacob F. Schoellkopf diverted part of the output from his waterwheel-powered flour mills to drive one of Charles Brush's improved generators to provide nighttime illumination for the tourists. Previously the attraction had been illuminated by burning bright calcium flares but arc-lights proved a better and cheaper alternative.[9]

In 1882, the world's first commercial central DC hydroelectric power plant provided power for a paper mill in Appleton, Wisconsin.[10] Just months later the first investor-owned electric utility, Edison Illuminating Company, completed the first fossil fueled electrical power plant in New York City, to compete with hydroelectric power close to an area of high demand. By 1886, between 40 and 50 hydroelectric stations were operating in the United States and in Canada. By 1888, about 200 electric companies relied on hydropower for at least part of their generation.[9]

Recognizing that the great hydroelectric potential of the Falls exceeded the local demand for electricity, a large power company was established nonetheless at the prime location for development; it awaited the prospect of an effective long-distance power transmission system. Westinghouse Electric won the competition, developing their plans around an alternating current system. The station was completed in 1895 and in 1896, electricity transmission 20 miles away to Buffalo, New York began. This event also began the rise to dominance of the AC system over Thomas Edison's direct current methods. Multiple permanent hydropower stations still exist on both the American and Canadian sides of the Falls, including the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant, the third largest in the United States.

The need to provide rural development in the early 20th century was often coupled to the availability of electric power and led to large-scale projects like the Tennessee Valley Authority which created numerous dams and, sometimes controversially, flooded large areas. In the 1930s, the need for power in the Southwest led to the building of the largest concrete construction in the world at that time, the Hoover Dam. The Grand Coulee Dam was both a power and irrigation project of the 1930s that was expanded for military industrial reasons during World War II, which also saw other dams such as the TVA's Fontana Dam built.

Dam building peaked in the 1960s and few dams were built in the 1970s. The growing awareness of environmental issues with dams saw the removal of some older and smaller dams and the installation of fish ladders at others. The enormous Rampart Dam was canceled in 1967 due to environmental and economic concerns. Instead of new dams, repowering old stations has increased the capacity of several facilities. For instance, Hoover Dam replaced its generators between 1986 and 1993. The need to alter downstream waterflow for ecological reasons (eliminating invasive species, sedimentation, etc.) has led to regulated seasonal drawdowns at some dams, changing the availability of water for power generation. Droughts and increased agricultural use of water can also lead to generation limits.

According to a United States Department of Energy report,[11] there exists over 12,000 MW of potential hydroelectricity capacity in the US existing 80,000 unpowered dams. Harnessing the currently unpowered dams could generate 45 TWhr/yr, equivalent to 16 percent of 2008 hydroelectricity generation.

According to a 2022 study, hydroelectric dams constructed prior to 1950 spurred short-run local economic growth due to cheaper power for localities. After 1950, the impact of hydropower dams on localities was more muted, most likely due to innovations such as high-tension transmission lines which dispersed the energy produced by dams to larger areas.[12]

Pumped storage

Another application of hydroelectricity is Pumped-storage hydroelectricity which does not create a net gain in power, but enables peak demand balancing. Water is pumped from a lower elevation source into a higher one and only released through generators when electric demand is high. In 2009 the United States had 21.5 GW of pumped storage generating capacity, accounting for 2.5% of baseload generating capacity.[13] This increased to a total of 22,878 MW in 2019 and 22,894 MW in 2020.[14]

Bath County Pumped Storage Station is the largest such facility in the world. Other stations of this type include Raccoon Mountain Pumped-Storage Plant, Bear Swamp Hydroelectric Power Station and Ludington Pumped Storage Power Plant on Lake Michigan, previously the largest in the world.

Tidal power

No significant tidal power plants exist in the United States. A project was proposed and run by the Snohomish County PUD in Washington but was ended when trouble was encountered obtaining enough funding.[15]

Largest hydroelectric power stations

Hydro plants by capacity in 2021

This is a list of the ten largest hydroelectric power stations in the United States by installed capacity.

Rank Name Image Capacity
(MW)
State Coordinates Opening Year Type Ref
1 Grand Coulee 6,809  Washington 47°57′21″N 118°58′54″W / 47.95583°N 118.98167°W / 47.95583; -118.98167 (Grand Coulee Dam) 1942 Reservoir (95.4%)
Pumped-storage (4.6%)
[16]
2 Bath County 3,003  Virginia 38°13′50″N 79°49′10″W / 38.23056°N 79.81944°W / 38.23056; -79.81944 (Bath County Pumped Storage) 1985 Pumped-storage [17]
3 Robert Moses Niagara 2,675  New York 43°08′35″N 79°02′23″W / 43.14306°N 79.03972°W / 43.14306; -79.03972 (Robert Moses Niagara) 1961 Reservoir
4 Chief Joseph 2,614  Washington 47°59′43″N 119°38′00″W / 47.99528°N 119.63333°W / 47.99528; -119.63333 (Chief Joseph Dam) 1979 Run-of-the-river [18]
5 John Day 2,485  Oregon
 Washington
45°42′59″N 120°41′40″W / 45.71639°N 120.69444°W / 45.71639; -120.69444 (John Day Dam) 1971 Run-of-the-river [19]
6 Ludington 2,172  Michigan 43°53′37″N 86°26′43″W / 43.89361°N 86.44528°W / 43.89361; -86.44528 (Ludington Pumped Storage) 1973 Pumped-storage [20]
7 Hoover 2,080  Arizona
 Nevada
36°0′56″N 114°44′16″W / 36.01556°N 114.73778°W / 36.01556; -114.73778 (Hoover Dam) 1936 Reservoir [21]
8 The Dalles 1,813  Oregon
 Washington
45°36′44″N 121°08′04″W / 45.61222°N 121.13444°W / 45.61222; -121.13444 (The Dalles Dam) 1957 Run-of-the-river [22]
9 Raccoon Mountain 1,616  Tennessee 35°2′54″N 85°23′48″W / 35.04833°N 85.39667°W / 35.04833; -85.39667 (Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage) 1978 Pumped-storage [23]
10 Castaic 1,500  California 34°35′14″N 118°39′24″W / 34.58722°N 118.65667°W / 34.58722; -118.65667 (Castaic Pumped Storage) 1973 Pumped-storage [24]

Statistics

Hydroelectric generation capacity by year in the United States
Installed conventional hydroelectric generating capacity since 2000 (MW)[25][14]
Hydroelectric generation in the United States[26][27][28][29]
Year Summer capacity
(GW)
Electricity generation
(TWh)
Capacity factor Yearly growth of
generating capacity
Yearly growth of
produced energy
Portion of
renewable electricity
Portion of
total electricity
2019 79.85 273.7
2018 79.89 291.72 0.417 0.12% -2.7% 40.9% 7.0%
2017 79.79 300.05 0.430 -0.2% 12% 43.7% 7.44%
2016 79.92 267.81 0.383 0.3% 7.50% 43.9% 6.57%
2015 79.66 249.08 0.357 0.56% -4.0% 45.77% 6.11%
2014 79.24 258.75 0.373 0.05% -3.66% 47.93% 6.32%
2013 79.22 268.57 0.387 0.64% -2.78% 51.44% 6.61%
2012 78.7 276.24 0.401 0.06% -13.50% 55.85% 6.82%
2011 78.65 319.36 0.464 -0.23% 22.74% 62.21% 7.79%
2010 78.83 260.2 0.377 0.39% -4.85% 60.88% 6.31%
2009 78.52 273.45 0.398 0.76% 7.31% 65.47% 6.92%
2008 77.93 254.83 0.373 0.05% 2.96% 66.90% 6.19%
2007 77.89 247.51 0.363 0.09% -14.43% 70.18% 5.95%
2006 77.82 289.25 0.424 0.36% 7.00% 74.97% 7.12%
2005 77.54 270.32 0.398 -0.13% 0.71% 75.57% 6.67%
2004 77.64 268.42 0.395 -1.33% -2.68% 76.36% 6.76%
2003 275.8
2002 264.33
2001 216.96
2000 275.57
United States conventional hydroelectric generation (GWh)[30]
Year Total % of total Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2001 216,962 18,852 17,473 20,477 18,013 19,176 20,728 18,079 18,914 15,256 15,235 15,413 19,346
2002 264,331 21,795 20,192 21,009 24,247 26,663 28,213 25,471 21,084 17,087 17,171 19,730 21,669
2003 275,804 20,600 19,780 24,202 24,759 29,395 28,586 24,843 22,972 18,480 18,428 19,715 24,044
2004 268,417 22,983 20,914 22,914 20,888 24,020 25,252 23,318 21,592 20,525 18,863 20,937 26,211
2005 270,322 24,272 21,607 22,936 23,058 27,279 26,783 25,957 21,566 17,364 18,006 19,353 22,141
2006 289,246 27,437 24,762 24,625 28,556 30,818 29,757 25,439 21,728 17,201 17,055 20,272 21,596
2007 247,512 26,045 18,567 24,163 23,891 26,047 22,817 22,478 19,941 14,743 14,796 15,682 18,342
2008 254,830 20,779 18,789 21,669 22,234 27,221 29,177 25,555 21,229 16,178 15,470 15,668 20,861
2009 273,445 23,490 17,812 21,827 25,770 29,560 29,233 23,385 19,580 17,359 19,691 21,008 24,730
2010 260,204 22,383 20,590 20,886 19,097 25,079 29,854 24,517 20,119 17,265 17,683 19,562 23,169
2011 319,355 25,531 24,131 31,134 31,194 32,587 32,151 31,285 25,764 21,378 19,787 20,681 23,732
2012 276,240 6.82% 23,107 20,284 25,907 26,295 28,641 26,658 26,491 23,034 17,604 16,502 18,733 22,984
2013 268,565 6.61% 24,829 20,418 20,534 25,097 28,450 27,384 27,255 21,633 16,961 17,199 17,677 21,128
2014 259,366 6.34% 21,634 17,396 24,257 25,440 26,544 25,744 24,357 19,807 16,074 17,159 18,625 22,329
2015 249,079 6.11% 24,138 22,286 24,281 22,471 20,125 20,414 21,014 19,122 16,094 16,630 19,338 23,166
2016 267,813 6.57% 25,615 24,139 27,390 25,878 25,486 23,237 21,455 19,570 16,368 17,339 18,808 22,528
2017 300,332 7.44% 26,628 23,882 29,613 29,409 32,607 30,575 26,598 22,034 19,152 17,698 19,888 22,248
2018 292,524 7% 25,064 24,902 25,861 28,115 30,444 27,597 25,100 22,017 19,166 19,548 21,913 22,797
2019 287,875 6.98% 24,798 22,881 26,334 27,820 31,982 28,078 24,875 22,579 18,526 18,306 20,218 21,478
2020 285,274 7.11% 24,498 25,868 23,823 23,194 29,976 27,999 26,742 23,284 18,679 18,810 20,893 21,508
2021 260,225 6.33% 25,814 21,624 21,574 19,201 22,795 24,075 22,113 20,954 17,966 17,999 20,460 25,650
2022 261,999 6.17% 26,213 22,904 25,356 19,573 23,071 26,892 24,193 21,617 16,812 14,638 18,764 21,870
2023 128,456 6.51% 22,954 19,338 20,630 17,917 27,983 19,632
Last entry, % of Total 6.61% 6.23% 6.25% 5.97% 8.54% 5.5% 5.71% 5.24% 4.79% 5.97% 5.81% 6.01%
United States pumped storage generation (GWh)[30]
Year Total % of total Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2001 -8,825 -589 -707 -773 -796 -623 -774 -871 -715 -928 -615 -811 -623
2002 -8,744 -750 -586 -684 -585 -539 -863 -998 -935 -777 -681 -666 -680
2003 -8,535 -802 -759 -778 -546 -597 -762 -745 -806 -769 -615 -695 -661
2004 -8,488 -768 -692 -653 -669 -689 -718 -693 -818 -770 -703 -665 -650
2005 -6,558 -725 -346 -497 -338 -466 -415 -625 -623 -680 -611 -554 -678
2006 -6,558 -533 -447 -435 -587 -444 -423 -638 -695 -629 -507 -553 -667
2007 -6,897 -572 -447 -458 -374 -547 -523 -595 -651 -743 -760 -662 -565
2008 -6,289 -746 -451 -553 -132 -587 -372 -799 -648 -517 -497 -489 -498
2009 -4,626 -501 -413 -315 -272 -349 -226 -491 -613 -348 -385 -330 -383
2010 -5,502 -565 -351 -325 -335 -441 -472 -557 -600 -421 -438 -467 -530
2011 -6,422 -659 -413 -349 -466 -417 -567 -708 -692 -583 -601 -458 -509
2012 -4,951 -348 -237 -281 -265 -371 -507 -619 -529 -431 -378 -409 -576
2013 -4,682 -465 -320 -462 -292 -334 -358 -340 -465 -439 -373 -413 -421
2014 -6,174 -290 -445 -421 -378 -601 -653 -545 -840 -542 -448 -531 -480
2015 -5,090 -551 -456 -409 -214 -370 -398 -513 -626 -544 -443 -285 -281
2016 -6,687 -312 -399 -384 -452 -321 -497 -784 -902 -715 -561 -607 -753
2017 -6,494 -435 -508 -521 -439 -423 -568 -759 -638 -606 -463 -478 -656
2018 -5,903 -547 -315 -490 -377 -390 -433 -644 -747 -603 -492 -343 -522
2019 -5,260 -323 -389 -409 -103 -368 -385 -622 -579 -671 -373 -509 -529
2020 -5,323 -377 -247 -353 -325 -367 -499 -686 -784 -525 -423 -369 -368
2021 -5,112 -424 -425 -236 -197 -416 -376 -685 -670 -434 -427 -377 -445
2022 -6,034 -493 -412 -318 -265 -467 -591 -768 -640 -598 -434 -495 -554
2023 -2,953 -611 -448 -538 -313 -483 -560

See also

US renewables:

General:

International:

References

  1. ^ "Renewable Tuesday: US Wind Surpasses Hydro". Daily Kos.
  2. ^ "Hydropower explained - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)". www.eia.gov. Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  3. ^ https://assets-global.website-files.com/5f749e4b9399c80b5e421384/60c2207c71746c499c0cd297_2021%20Hydropower%20Status%20Report%20-%20International%20Hydropower%20Association%20Reduced%20file%20size.pdf. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ US Energy Information Administration (January 2010) Electric Power Annual 2008, DOE/EIA-0348(2008), p.2-3, PDF file, downloaded 24 January 2010.
  5. ^ US Energy Information Administration, “The Columbia River Basin provides more than 40% of total US hydroelectric generation”, Today in Energy, 27 June 2014.
  6. ^ http://www.energy.ca.gov/renewables/tracking_progress/documents/renewable.pdf [bare URL PDF]
  7. ^ Engr. W. E. Herring, U. S. Forest Service, Applications of Water Power. Included in the Preliminary Report of the Inland Waterways Commission, submitted to Congress by Theodore Roosevelt, February 26, 1908. "The application of great water powers to the industrial wants of distant cities is less than ten years old and is still in its infancy, yet in this short space of time stations supplying a large number of cities in the United States with a combined capacity of hundreds of thousands of horsepower have been installed. To reach these industrial centers the water power is electrically transmitted, and in many cases the distance is over 100 miles. This method of utilizing water power has been made possible only by long distance transmission. Fifteen years ago 10 miles was the limit to which electrical power could be transmitted, but at the present time 150 miles is very common and in one case a line of 200 miles is in use. This fact has been the greatest incentive to such water-power developments."
  8. ^ Energy Timelines Hydropower, Department of Energy
  9. ^ a b c History of Hydropower Archived 2010-01-26 at the Wayback Machine Wind and Water Power Program, Department of Energy
  10. ^ Hydroelectric Power "The first commercial hydroelectric power station was built in 1882 on the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin, in order to provide 12.5 kilowatts of power to light two paper mills and a residence. Paper manufacturer H. F. Rogers developed the station after seeing Thomas Edison's plans for an electricity power station in New York."
  11. ^ "Energy Dept. Report Finds Major Potential to Grow Clean, Sustainable U.S. Hydropower | Department of Energy".
  12. ^ Severnini, Edson (2022). "The Power of Hydroelectric Dams: Historical Evidence from the United States over the 20th Century". The Economic Journal. doi:10.1093/ej/ueac059. ISSN 0013-0133.
  13. ^ "U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis". www.eia.gov.
  14. ^ a b "Where hydropower is generated". US Energy Information Administration. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  15. ^ "Tidal Energy Research | Power Supply | Snohomish County PUD". www.snopud.com. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  16. ^ "Grand Coulee Dam - Hydroelectric Project Information | Columbia Basin Research". www.cbr.washington.edu. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  17. ^ "Bath County Pumped Storage Station | Dominion Energy". www.dominionenergy.com. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  18. ^ "Chief Joseph Dam - Hydroelectric Project Information | Columbia Basin Research". www.cbr.washington.edu. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  19. ^ "John Day Dam - Hydroelectric Project Information | Columbia Basin Research". www.cbr.washington.edu. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  20. ^ Network, Michael McCluskey / Energy News (September 24, 2018). "Michigan utilities upgrade pumped storage plant ahead of renewable push". Energy News Network. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  21. ^ "Hoover Dam | Bureau of Reclamation". www.usbr.gov. Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  22. ^ "The Dalles Dam - Hydroelectric Project Information | Columbia Basin Research". www.cbr.washington.edu. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  23. ^ "TVA - Raccoon Mountain". www.tva.gov. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  24. ^ "Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Energy Storage Development Plan: Description of Existing and Eligible Energy Storage System" (PDF). LADWP. September 2, 2014. pp. 7–8. Retrieved December 12, 2019.
  25. ^ "U.S. hydropower capacity". Statista. February 2020. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  26. ^ "Electric Power Monthly". US Energy Information Administration.
  27. ^ "Electric Power Annual". US Energy Information Administration. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  28. ^ "EIA - Electricity Data". US Energy Information Administration. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  29. ^ "U.S.: hydropower generation 2021". Statista.
  30. ^ a b "Electric Power Monthly" (PDF). Report. U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration. April 26, 2021.
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Hydroelectric power in the United States
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