Hydropower Program

About Us

Over the past century, federal hydropower generated at Reclamation projects has served project load, enabling Reclamation to convey water across the arid western United States. In addition, surplus power (Reclamation hydropower generation surplus to project load requirements) marketed by Department of Energy Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) has provided Reclamation a steady source of revenue for project repayment and investment.

Reclamation is the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States – owning 78 facilities in total. Of the 78, Reclamation directly operates and maintains 53, comprising over 14,730 megawatts of capacity. On average, the 53 "reserved" facilities generate 40 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity each year – the equivalent demand of over 3.8 million US homes, returning over one billion dollars in federal revenue through power sales. The remaining 25 plants are operated and maintained by a non-federal entity under the provisions of a formal transfer contract or agreement. Six of the 25 plants generate "federal" power marketed by Department of Energy Power Marketing Administrations (Deer Creek, McPhee, Olmsted, O'Neill, San Luis, and Towaoc). In total, 59 Reclamation hydroelectric powerplants generate federal power, marketed by Power Marketing Administrations. Reliable, low-cost hydropower generated at Reclamation projects has provided tremendous value to the nation, spurring the development of the western United States through the provision of firm electric power to rural communities as well as ancillary services to support western interconnect grid reliability.

Reclamation administers a comprehensive power operations and maintenance (PO&M) program to ensure our power facilities are safe, reliable, and cost effective. Reclamation also administers an electric reliability compliance (RC) program to ensure facilities comply with applicable standards to support a reliable bulk electric system. All Reclamation power facilities undergo periodic assessments to evaluate PO&M and RC program implementation. Reclamation’s hydropower program supports Administration and Department of Interior domestic energy security initiatives – optimizing existing hydropower resources and facilitating the development of untapped resource potential through a number of activities, including collaborative regulatory reform; operational and technological innovation; and stakeholder outreach. Collectively, these activities derive additional value and revenue from existing public infrastructure.

 [Map showing location of Reclamation facilities in the Western United States]
Facility Map

Hydropower Value

Hydropower is a renewable, carbon-neutral energy resource. Hydropower is a non-consumptive use of water – water flowing through a turbine is available for downstream use and is naturally replenished by snow and rainfall.

Hydropower is a dynamic resource uniquely fitted to provide both firm power and grid support services to support the transmission of electricity in a safe, reliable manner. Grid support services are particularly valuable in balancing areas absorbing, intermittent, non-dispatchable energy resources such as solar power in the Southwest and wind power in the Pacific Northwest.

Organization and Staffing

The Bureau of Reclamation is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior. At the head of our organization is the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. Our Power Resources Office develops and coordinates policy, provides advice, and assists in managing Reclamation's power program. Our Regional and Area Offices oversee the operation of our individual power facilities. We provide information about the organization, staffing, responsibilities, and contacts for these offices.

Manager, Power Resources Office
P.O. Box 25007, Bldg 67, 86-51000
Denver, CO 80225-0007
(303) 445-2931
FAX (303) 445-6693

Partnerships

To deliver power to our customers, we partner with a number of organizations. In 1977, the responsibility for marketing and transmission of our power was transferred to the newly created Power Marketing Administrations. We work with Western Area Power Administration and the Bonneville Power Administration to deliver power to our customers. We maintain memberships in a number of electric utility organizations.

Initiatives

As noted above, Reclamation’s hydropower program supports Administration and Department of Interior domestic energy security initiatives – optimizing existing hydropower resources and facilitating the development of untapped resource potential through a number of activities, including collaborative regulatory reform; operational and technological innovation; and stakeholder outreach. Collectively, these activities derive additional value and revenue from existing public infrastructure. The Department of Interior has identified incremental hydropower capability as a key performance indicator in the FY2018-2022 Strategic Plan. Incremental capability is reported quarterly in the Bureau of Reclamation Hydropower Generation Summary, available on the Reports and Data webpage.

Federal Investment. Reclamation coordinates with PMAs and our power customers to identify, fund, and implement capital and technological investment opportunities that reduce operational risk and deliver operational benefits. Between 1997 and 2018, Reclamation in partnership with PMAs and our power customers have replaced 62 turbine runners, allowing the affected units to operate more efficiently. The 62 turbine runner replacements equate to 226 megawatts (MW) of incremental capability. In that same timeframe, the same groups have uprated 27 generators, delivering 391 MW additional generating capacity.

In addition, Reclamation has developed a corporate hydropower optimization system – HydrOS – in partnership with the US Army Corps of Engineers. HydrOS is a flexible, stand-alone hydropower optimization system, utilizing modern computing hardware and algorithms, navigating facility-specific operational and institutional constraints to recommend optimal unit loading levels and commitment solutions to meet power output or flow rate targets in real time. Effectively, HydrOS is an operations tool designed to maximize the MWh output for each acre-foot of water that passes through the facility, offering a more cost-effective solution to achieving operating efficiencies relative to conventional capital investment methods (e.g. turbine replacements). In addition, HydrOS, unlike conventional capital investments, does not require a unit outage. 

Non-Federal Development. Reclamation is committed to facilitating non-federal hydropower development. Acting on this commitment Reclamation has developed a number of resources to aid prospective developers – e.g. public resource assessments, identifying technical hydropower potential on Reclamation projects; and streamlined our LOPP permitting process, defined in Reclamation Manual Directive and Standard, Lease of Power Privilege (LOPP) Processes, Responsibilities, Timelines and Charges. The initial D&S was published in September 2012 and revised in February 2014 and September 2014 to reflect Public Law 113-24 process requirements. The D&S was revised again in December 2016 to clarify – but not modify - LOPP development timeframes, cyber security requirements, and annual charge methodology to ensure consistent LOPP program administration and external communications.

Additional Information:

Last Updated: 5/8/19