Bureau of Reclamation Banner, Upper Colorado Region
Reclamation Home              Reclamation Offices              Newsroom              Library              Projects & Facilities

title image: CRSP Power Office Programs & Activities

Benefits of Hydropower

There are numerous benefits provided by hydropower over other energy sources. These include:

  • Clean - Because hydropower utilizes water to generate electricity, it doesn’t produce air pollution or create toxic by-products like powerplants that burn fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas.
  • Renewable - Hydropower is renewable because it relies on the hydrological (water) cycle driven by the sun which provides a renewable supply of water. Hydropower facilities harness the natural energy of flowing and falling water to generate electricity. About 96 percent of the United States' renewable energy comes from hydropower.1
  • Reliable - Hydropower can meet changing demands because it can go from zero power to maximum output rapidly and predictably.2
  • photo: generators at Glen Canyon Powerplant
    Generators at Glen Canyon Powerplant
  • Efficient - Today's hydropower turbines are capable of converting more than 90 percent of available energy into electricity which is more efficient than any other form of generation (the best fossil fuel powerplant is only about 50 percent efficient).3
  • Flexible -  Hydropower output can be changed quickly in response to changes in electrical demand because of the ability to control the flow of water. This ability is considered essential to electric transmission grid stability.4
  • Domestic and Secure - Hydropower is a secure source of energy because it comes from water in domestic rivers and is not subject to disruptions from foreign suppliers, cost fluctuations, and transportation issues that are associated with other fuel sources.5
  • Cost-Effective - Hydropower generation has low operating costs and a long powerplant life compared with other large scale power-generating options. Once the initial investment is made, powerplant life can be extended economically and remain in service for many years. Typically a hydropower plant in service for 40-50 years can have its operating life doubled.6
  • Stored Energy Source - Because hydropower is most often generated by water stored in a reservoir behind a dam, a vast amount of potential energy exists in the reservoir which is available over a long period of time.
  • Black Start Capability - Hydropower facilities have the ability to start generation without an outside source of power. This service allows system operators to provide auxiliary power to more complex generation sources that could take hours or even days to start.7
  • Growth and Development - Hydropower has played in important role in the growth and development of the Western United States and in the Nation's electric power industry. Both large and small hydroelectric power developments were instrumental in the early expansion of the electric power industry.
  • The Future - Hydroelectric power is important to the United States. Growing populations and modern technologies require vast amounts of electricity for creating, building, and expanding. Hydropower currently supplies about 10 percent of the electrical generating capacity of the US.8

1,4,8  Bureau of Reclamation, Power Resources Office, Hydroelectric Power, (July 2005)
2,3,5  National Association of Hydropower (www.hydro.org/Hydro_Facts/Facts_Sheets/716.cfm)
6,7  International Hydropower Association, Hydropower and the Worlds Energy Future, (November 2000)


Last updated: December 1, 2008