Hydropower Program

The Hydropower Industry

Hydropower's Role in the National Energy Strategy

Hydropower accounts for about 13 percent of the nation's generating capacity. Nuclear generating accounts for slightly more - 14 percent. Fossil steam accounts for the most - 62 percent.

The unique nature of hydropower provides many advantages over other electrical power sources.

  • Hydroelectric facilities are the most efficient energy-producing plants. Hydroelectric powerplants operate at 85- to 90-percent efficiency, more than twice that of fossil-fueled plants.

  • Hydroelectric powerplants are flexible in meeting peak power demands. Hydroelectric projects can adjust to load changes quickly. Also, reservoirs to store water for hydroelectric power are the best large-scale means for storing electrical energy.

  • Hydroelectric powerplants are reliable and durable. The machinery involved has relatively few moving parts. Because excessive heat is not produced, cycling has a minimal effect on machinery, which contributes to long life and low maintenance. Unplanned outage rates for hydroelectric units are the lowest in the electric industry.

  • Hydroelectric powerplants are relatively inexpensive to operate because there are no fuel costs. This accounts for the inflation-proof label often given to hydroelectric power.

  • Thermal, chemical, radioactive, water, and air pollution are minimized by hydropower generation as compared to coal and nuclear power, which produce substantial quantities of residual wastes. Coal-fired generation contributes to acid rain and increases in greenhouse gases.

  • Hydropower is an exceptional resource for meeting peak power demands. The ability to start quickly and adjust to rapid changes in load adjustments make hydroelectric plants particularly suitable for responding to peak loads and assisting in spinning reserve supplies.

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Last Updated: 2/4/16