Skip Navigation

The Reliability of Renewable Energy: Hydro

December 4, 2015
By Jordan Lofthouse, Randy T Simmons, Ryan M. Yonk

Hydropower has been an important source of renewable energy in the United States for over a century. Hydropower is more efficient than many other energy sources and can run consistently with little maintenance, making it an ideal source of baseload power.

added image

Hydropower has been an important source of renewable energy in the United States for over a century. Hydropower is more efficient than many other energy sources and can run consistently with little maintenance, making it an ideal source of baseload power. However, future growth in large-scale hydropower generation is unlikely because public pressure discourages large dam construction and most ideal large-scale dam sites are already used. Still efficiency improvements have the potential to raise large-scale hydropower production by up to 50 percent and installing turbines on existing non-powered dams and conduits, including irrigation canals and municipal water pipelines, can increase renewable electricity generation by up to 12 gigawatts of new energy capacity. 

Small hydropower can be a reliable, cost effective, and environmentally friendly way to increase renewable energy production in the United States yet, federal regulations continue to hinder its growth. Hydropower developers are discouraged from investing in hydropower because of a heavy regulatory burden.