Through the Hydropower Vision, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind and Water Power Technologies Office has led a first-of-its-kind comprehensive analysis to evaluate future pathways for low-carbon, renewable hydropower (hydropower generation and pumped storage) in the United States, focused on continued technical evolution, increased energy market value, and environmental sustainability. Download the full Hydropower Vision report.

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Executive Summary

The Hydropower Vision analysis finds that U.S. hydropower could grow from 101 gigawatts (GW) of capacity in 2015 to nearly 150 GW by 2050. Under this scenario, $209 billion in savings from avoided global damages from greenhouse gas emissions is possible, including $185 billion from continuing to operate the existing hydropower fleet through 2050. With this deployment level, more than 35 million average U.S. homes could be powered by hydropower in 2050.


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Chapter 1: Introducing the Hydropower Vision

Chapter 1 explains the process for interpreting hydropower’s future market potential from technical resource assessments, using computational economic and dispatch models. Chapter 1 also describes innovations and nontraditional approaches in project development and applications of advanced technologies that could transform development of new hydropower projects in the decades to come.


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Chapter 2: State of Hydropower in the United States

Chapter 2 summarizes the status of hydropower in the United States within eight topic areas: history, contributions, and context; role in the grid; markets and project development economics; opportunities for development; design, infrastructure, and technology; operations and maintenance; pumped storage; and socioeconomics.


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Chapter 3: Assessment of National Hydropower Potential

Chapter 3 applies detailed electric sector modeling and impacts assessment to explore an array of possible futures for the hydropower industry and to better understand a subset of the quantifiable impacts associated with multiple scenarios.


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Chapter 4: The Hydropower Vision Roadmap: A Pathway Forward

Chapter 4 provides a detailed roadmap of potential technical, economic, and institutional actions by the hydropower community to optimize hydropower’s continued contribution to a clean, reliable, low-carbon, domestic energy generation portfolio while ensuring that the nation’s natural resources are adequately protected or conserved.


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The appendices include a glossary, assumptions, models and model results, and a contributor list.