Good Ol’ Hydropower: Is it time for new investment?

 

Among the items in a recent Energy Information Administration dispatch is a feature on hydropower generation in the United States. Hydroelectric is old renewable energy. It’s usually not counted in state renewable portfolio standards (aimed at new renewable power). Is the prospect of new, or additional water power being overlooked?

As of the end of 2010, hydropower represented 24 of the 25 oldest operating power facilities in the U.S., and 72 percent of all electric generating capacity over the age of 60, according to EIA. That’s an interesting statistic.

Some others: Hydro makes up about 10 percent of total U.S. generating capacity, and is dubbed by some as the largest renewable resource in the U.S. Put another way, hydro accounted for 31 percent of renewable energy consumption in the U.S. in 2010, compared to 11 percent for wind and only 1 percent for solar. Capacity has varied over the years due to the availability of water to power hydro facilities.

photo eia renewable energy chart 2010 hydropower

Which makes you wonder, what’s being done to rebuild those old hydro facilities? Not enough, according to the National Hydropower Association. No surprise there, they lobby for hydropower. Still …

The association is pushing for legislation called the Renewable Energy Parity Act, which would provide production tax credit parity for hydropower generation.

“Currently hydropower and marine and hydrokinetic technologies receive only one-half the amount of the credit available to other renewable resources,” the association says in a news release. The bill would equalize the production tax credit at the higher rate for all qualifying technologies.

As a Scientific American article put it back in 2009, is it  “Time to Think Hydropower“? Water power has advantages and disadvantages, including fish entrainment.

The article was written by the National Hydropower Association executive director, for the record. The Midwest, also for the record, was the home to the first hydropower plant in America.

For more on hydropower’s (possible) resurgence, see a recent Midwest Energy News story on alternative hydropower on the Mississippi.

— Photos: Top, NOAA; Middle, via EIA

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