The United States is second only to China in terms of the generating capacity of its hydropower plants, with a total installed capacity of almost 103,000 MW. This comprises about 80 GW of conventional hydropower and almost 23 GW of pumped storage hydropower.
While no new major hydropower projects were commissioned in 2017, the US Department of Energy (DOE) reported a number of retrofit projects were completed, adding 140 MWof new capacity to existing facilities. In addition, 139 MW of pumped hydro storage capacity was added at the Northfield Mountain Unit in Massachusetts and Ludington facility in Michigan.
An additional 50 GW of hydropower capacity could be added nationwide by 2050, according to the DOE. The department envisions an aggressive programme that could see up to 6.3 GW added through upgrades and the optimisation of existing hydropower plants, 4.8 GW by retrofitting existing non-powered dams, 1.7 GW through instream-reach developments and up to 35 GW with pumped storage projects.
The DOE said it would award up to USD 30.6 million in Recovery Act funding for seven hydropower projects that modernised existing facilities. The selected projects are to be environmentally friendly and should increase electric generation by an estimated 187 GWh per year. The department estimates the incremental energy from these seven plants will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 110,000 tonnes per year.
Retrofit projects under construction include the 36.4 MW Red Rock7 project which involves a new powerhouse to contain two Kaplan turbine-generator units on the downstream side of the dam and an intake structure on the upstream side of the dam, being built at an existing dam on the Des Moines River in Iowa.
Other planned projects include Absaroka Energy, which received a 5-year operating licence from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in December 2016 for the 400 MW Gordon Butte pumped storage project. Construction on the project could begin in 2018, with a projected on-line date of early 2022.
In addition, the San Diego County Water Authority and the City of San Diego announced plans for an energy storage facility at the San Vicente Reservoir in California and are assessing the potential to develop the 500 MW San Vicente Energy Storage Facility to increase the availability and efficiency of renewable energy for the region.
In 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a pair of bills that would promote the development of pumped storage projects and add hydroelectric capacity to existing non-powered dams. This is projected to cost as much as USD 2 billion and create more than 2,000 jobs through to 2027.
Under the 2018 government funding bill, the DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office would be awarded a record USD 105 million with USD 35 million going to hydro-pumped storage programmes and USD 70 million going to marine energy and hydrokinetic programmes. In addition, the Promoting Hydropower Development at Existing Non-Powered Dams Act would enable the retrofitting of existing non-powered, federally-owned dams that have the greatest potential for private sector hydropower development.
Early in 2018, the DOE approved a presidential permit for the Northern Pass transmission project, a 192 mile transmission line that will bring 1,090 MW of hydropower energy from Hydro-Québec to New Hampshire and to the rest of New England. However, subsequent to this announcement, the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee voted to deny approval of the project, placing further delays on the proposed interconection. The project is estimated to cost about USD 1.6 billion.
Plans to develop a Manitoba-Minnesota long-distance transmission line have also encountered delays. The transmission project aims to bring hydroelectricity from generating stations in northern Manitoba, Canada, through the Bipole III transmission line and across the U.S. border as part of a 308 MW deal with the Wisconsin Public Service, in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
This country profile is featured in the 2018 Hydropower Status Report. Download the full report here.
This profile was last updated in June 2018.