Hydropower is one of the least sexy forms of renewable energy. It doesn’t involve flashy silicon panels, massive turbines spinning amidst Midwestern cornfields, or heat stored beneath the Earth’s crust. But hydropower, or power derived from the force of energy of moving water, is the largest source of renewable energy in the U.S.–even as its capacity has remained unchanged over the past few decades. And now, finally, hydropower is getting the respect it deserves. The Department of Energy, Department of Interior, and the Army Corps of Engineers are teaming up to increase hydropower energy generation at federally owned facilities and develop new forms of low-impact hydropower.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of the Interior’s
Bureau of Reclamation are already the first and second largest hydropower
owners in the United States. When combined, the two agencies represent approximately half of the country’s hydropower capacity (about 34,000 megawatts). So it makes sense that the agencies are working to better their hydropower facilities, especially since there is so much low-hanging fruit–i.e. existing dams just waiting to be used.
One major advantage to hydropower technology over other forms of alternative energy: It can handle high peak loads. Dams store water when electricity demand drops, and power can easily be pumped out when demand increases. Add that to the fact that hydropower is often cheaper than power from fossil fuels and it becomes clear that the U.S government is making a smart move by investing in the technology. Hydropower may not be the most high-tech of green technologies, but there’s a reason that it has been around for hundreds of years.