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Title: New Stream-reach Development: A Comprehensive Assessment of Hydropower Energy Potential in the United States

The rapid development of multiple national geospatial datasets related to topography, hydrology, and environmental characteristics in the past decade have provided new opportunities for the refinement of hydropower resource potential from undeveloped stream-reaches. Through 2011 to 2013, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) was tasked by the Department of Energy (DOE) Water Power Program to evaluate the new stream-reach development (NSD) resource potential for more than 3 million US streams. A methodology was designed that contains three main components: (1) identification of stream-reaches with high energy density, (2) topographical analysis of stream-reaches to estimate inundated surface area and reservoir storage, and (3) environmental attribution to spatially join information related to the natural ecological systems, social and cultural settings, policies, management, and legal constraints to stream-reaches of energy potential. An initial report on methodology (Hadjerioua et al., 2013) was later reviewed and revised based on the comments gathered from two peer review workshops. After implementing the assessment across the entire United States, major findings were summarized in this final report. The estimated NSD capacity and generation, including both higher-energy-density (>1 MW per reach) and lower-energy-density (<1 MW per reach) stream-reaches is 84.7 GW, around the same size as the existing USmore » conventional hydropower nameplate capacity (79.5 GW; NHAAP, 2013). In terms of energy, the total undeveloped NSD generation is estimated to be 460 TWh/year, around 169% of average 2002 2011 net annual generation from existing conventional hydropower plants (272 TWh/year; EIA, 2013). Given the run-of-river assumption, NSD stream-reaches have higher capacity factors (53 71%), especially compared with conventional larger-storage peaking-operation projects that usually have capacity factors of around 30%. The highest potential is identified in the Pacific Northwest Region (32%), followed by Missouri Region (15%) and California Region (9%). In terms of states, the highest potential is found in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, the three states in the Pacific Northwest, followed by California, Alaska, Montana, and Colorado. In addition to the resource potential, abundant environmental attributes were also organized and attributed to the identified stream-reaches to support further hydropower market analysis. The prevalence of environmental variables and proportion of capacity from stream-reaches intersecting environmental variables varied according to hydrologic region. Detailed NSD findings are organized by hydrologic regions and presented in each chapter of this report.« less
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  1. ORNL
  2. California State University, Fresno
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
EB4500000; CEEB099
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
Sponsoring Org:
EE USDOE - Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EE)
Country of Publication:
United States