ORNL releases report on Small Hydropower in the United States

The recently released Small Hydropower in the United States report provides an update on the status of small hydro (less than 10 MW) in the U.S., which it says makes up most of the “limited development of new hydropower … in the last decade.”

This report was prepared by Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind and Water Program. It was prepared in response to a request from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and International Center on Small Hydropower and will be included in the World Small Hydro Development Report that is being released in 2019.

The report says about 420 MW of new small hydro development is currently planned, at 165 projects. By comparison, small hydro totals about 3.6 GW of hydroelectric capacity in the country, out of a total of 80 GW of hydro capacity. The addition of hydropower generation equipment to existing infrastructure is the dominant trend in recent and planned new hydropower development, the report says.

The report covers:

  • Electricity Sector
  • Hydropower and Small Hydropower
  • Renewable Energy Policy
  • Recent Trends in Small Hydropower

The report concludes that small hydro is the most cost-effective type of new hydropower development available in the U.S. And despite federal support and recent legislative reforms, developers may still face some challenges with regard to regulatory approval, markets, lack of comprehensive information regarding potential conduit sites, risk aversion regarding new technology, lack of standardized technology, electrical interconnection, electrical inspection, and state and local policy issues.

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