The Department of the Interior this week released the results of an internal study that shows the department could generate up to one million megawatt hours of electricity annually and create jobs by adding hydropower capacity at 70 of its existing facilities, including those in the Northwest.
The report, “Hydropower Resource Assessment at Existing Reclamation Facilities,” estimates that the additional hydropower capabilities could create enough energy to annually power more than 85,000 households. Based on industry estimates for job potential associated with the kind of hydropower additions identified in this report, approximately 1,200 jobs could be created, say Interior officials, including jobs in administration, manufacturing, construction, engineering, operations and maintenance.
"Adding hydropower capability at existing Reclamation facilities is a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable way to build our clean energy economy,” said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle. “We can increase our renewable hydropower output without building new dams. This report highlights the exciting potential for substantial hydropower development and related jobs at existing facilities throughout the western United States.”
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 our energy needs with clean sources by 2035.
“Our report reflects Reclamation’s commitment to advancing renewable energy in a manner that promotes efficiency and sustainability through the use of existing resources,” said Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor.
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 most hydropower potential. Facilities with additional hydropower potential are also found in California, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming.
The chart at www.usbr.gov/power shows a state-by-state breakdown of the 70 sites with the greatest potential to develop additional hydropower and contribute energy to the grid. It indicates potential installed capacity, annual production and a benefit-cost ratio that incorporates incentives for developing energy available from existing federal and state programs.
Connor explained how the report can best be used.
“Although this report is not a feasibility analysis, it provides information that allows Interior and developers to prioritize investments in a more detailed analysis that focuses on sites demonstrating reasonable potential for being economically, financially and environmentally viable,” he said.
Connor pointed out that 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
Reclamation 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.
A related product that Reclamation is making publicly available is the Hydropower Assessment Tool that was used in the report to analyze the 530 sites. The tool can be applied to any potential hydropower site and requires simple inputs of daily flows, head water elevations and tail water elevation. The results provide valuable information on potential hydropower production and economic viability.
The Bureau of Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 Western States. Its 58 power plants annually produce, on average, 40 billion kilowatt-hours per year, enough to meet the needs of 9 million people.