U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Water Power Program

Clean Electricity Potential at Existing Dam Facilities: Report

April 6, 2011

Photo of hydropower dam with water flowing through a channel.

Hydropower can be added to many of the Interior Department's flood-control dams, like the Pueblo Dam in Colorado, according to a new report.
Credit: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) released on March 31 the results of an internal study that shows it could generate up to one million megawatt hours of electricity annually and create jobs by adding hydropower capacity at 70 of its existing dams, canals, tunnels, and other water-handling facilities. The report, "Hydropower Resource Assessment at Existing Reclamation Facilities," estimates that the additional hydropower capabilities could generate enough clean, renewable energy to annually power more than 85,000 households, while also creating an estimated 1,200 jobs. The Bureau of Reclamation developed the report as part of President Obama's initiative to develop a comprehensive renewable energy portfolio and to meet 80% percent of U.S. energy needs with clean sources by 2035.

The report studied 530 sites throughout Reclamation's jurisdiction—including dams, diversion structures, and some canals and tunnels. Of those sites, the assessment made a preliminary identification of 70 facilities with the most potential to add hydropower. These 70 facilities are located in 14 states. Colorado, Utah, Montana, Texas, and Arizona have the facilities with the most hydropower potential, but facilities with hydropower potential were also found in California, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming.

For many of these sites, hydropower development would be conducted under a "Lease of Power Privilege Agreement," through which a non-federal entity is given a contractual right for up to 40 years to use a Reclamation facility for electric power generation. The bureau will be publishing two Federal Register notices in the near future regarding Lease of Power Privilege opportunities at Granby and Pueblo dams in Colorado. These dams were identified in the report as having high potential for hydropower development. The report dovetails the 2010 Federal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Hydropower between DOE, DOI, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. See the DOI press release, the complete report, and coverage of the 2010 MOU in EERE Network News.

Also in hydro news, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) signed an updated agreement on March 30 to coordinate their efforts evaluating proposals to construct and operate non-federal hydropower projects at USACE-owned facilities. The MOU establishes a framework for early coordination and participation between FERC and USACE to ensure timely review of proposed non-federal hydropower development applications. See the FERC press release and the FERC MOU PDF.