Hydroelectric power supplied 101 GW of generating capacity in the U.S. in 2015, a contribution which can increase to nearly 150 GW by 2050. This is one of the main findings of Hydropower Vision: A New Chapter for America’s First Renewable Electricity Source, a report by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Innovative technologies will optimize hydro’s contribution to the U.S. power mix. Image source: U.S. Energy DepartmentInnovative technologies will optimize hydro’s contribution to the U.S. power mix. Image source: U.S. Energy DepartmentThe report highlights advances in pumped-storage which can add 36 GW of capacity. As more of the nation’s electricity comes from wind and solar energy, hydropower and pumped-storage hydropower resources can provide the flexibility and reliability the electricity grid needs to deliver affordable clean energy to American homes and businesses, the report says.

Current and projected public health and environmental benefits of hydropower are also considered. By 2050, hydropower could save $209 billion from avoided damages from greenhouse gas emissions, $58 billion from avoided healthcare costs and economic damages due to air pollution, and 30 trillion gallons of water that would otherwise be used for steam generation or power plant cooling. U.S. hydropower and pumped-storage has the potential to increase and support the nation’s renewable energy portfolio while providing economic development by supporting more than 195,000 jobs and result in $150 billion in cumulative economic development by 2050.

The report includes a roadmap that defines actions that are needed in order to realize the economic and social benefits of increased hydropower based on three foundational pillars of optimization, growth, and environmental sustainability. Driving long-term cost reductions will require continued technology development and collaboration among industry experts, federal agencies and academia.

DOE also announced $9.8 million in available funding for up to 12 projects to develop innovative technologies that will reduce capital costs and deployment timelines for pumped-storage hydropower and non-powered dams. The pumped-storage projects will study the feasibility of innovative concepts for closed-loop pumped-storage hydropower systems.

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