Washington leads the way in hydropower in the U.S.

Snoqualmie Falls

Hydropower concentrated on the West Coast

Solar energy and wind power might get a lot more headlines right now, but hydropower is more than holding its own as an electricity source in the United States. Hydropower is a significant source of electricity in the U.S., and the majority of hyrdo is concentrated on the West Coast.

More than 50 percent of current hydropower capacity in the nation is in Washington, Oregon and California. Washington leads the way, as approximately 30 percent of all U.S. hydropower was generated in the state in 2014. East of the Mississippi River, New York State New York has the largest hydroelectric capacity.

In general, when it comes to generating electricity in the U.S., hydropower is often left out of the conversation, but it shouldn’t be. Solar power is certainly up and coming and wind power has great potential — especially on an industrial scale — but hydropower actually outpaced all other renewable sources in electricity generation in 2015. In 2015, hydropower accounted for about 6 percent of total U.S. electricity generation, while wind power sourced about 4.7 percent and solar energy generates just 0.6 percent.

The power of non-powered dams (NPDs)

Despite significant electricity generating capacity as a while, most dams in the U.S. actually were not built for power generation. Instead, most were constructed for irrigation and flood control and currently produce no electricity.

Known, as non-powered dams (NPDs), these structures are literally electricity generating sources just waiting to happen. Not all NPDs are fit for electricity production, but a good percentage are. Back in 2012, the Department of Energy (DOE) estimated the power potential of NPDs in the U.S. and determined that NPDs had the potential to generate up to 12 gigawatts (GW) of electric power.

This means that not only is hydropower already a viable electricity source in the U.S., but it could increase its stake easily in the coming years. For a glimpse at the ultimate potential of hydropower, one need look no further than Washington State and the rest of the West Coast.

Source → EIA
Photo Credit: Photo by Prashkan90 / CC BY-SA 3.0