While many people believe that hydroelectric power has largely reached its maximum capacity in the United States, new research shows that American hydroelectric sources aren’t being used to their maximum potential. Statistics show that the growth of hydroelectric power in the United States has essentially been non-existent since the early 1990s.
With only so many rivers to work with, there are been many energy experts saying that hydropower has been tapped out. Currently, hydroelectric power provides about 7% of all electricity in the United States. This is much higher than the other renewable energy sources of wind and solar power.
However, deputy executive director of the National Hydropower Association Jeff Leahey has said that many people are starting to re-examine hydropower.
Leahey said, “The policy arena has shifted and there’s been more of a focus on clean energy investments and that’s driving people to look at hydro. Now we’re seeing that growth curve uptick again, when in the last 20 years it’s been pretty flat.”
New methods of construction are allowing energy officials to expand current hydropower facilities without having to create new dams. This is enabling more hydropower to be produced in the United States. Furthermore, many dams that have already been constructed are not being used to generate electricity. These dams can easily be converted into hydropower plants, while still allowing them to serve their intended purposes.
Leahey said, “The dam has already been built, the impacts have already been felt. Those dams are going to be there for the long haul, but right now they’re just not generating any power. We think that’s a prime opportunity for near-term growth in the hydropower industry.”
Hydropower offers many advantages over other types of power. It is clean, reliable and it functions 24 hours a day in all types of weather. Indeed, hydropower can be fully depended upon for a source of electricity. Meanwhile, the production of wind and solar power fluctuates depending upon the weather. Additionally, hydropower is very easy to store for future use.
With all the benefits of hydroelectric power and the amount of untapped resources, it should be no surprise to anyone if hydropower makes a comeback. With the United States continuing to search for renewable energy sources, hydropower is expected to play a major role.