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Hydropower is the United States’ oldest source of renewable electricity, comprising nearly 7% of U.S. generation. In 2018, hydropower accounted for roughly 40% of U.S. renewable electricity generation, while pumped storage hydropower remains the largest contributor to U.S. energy storage with an installed capacity of 21.6 GW, or roughly 95% of all commercial storage capacity in the United States.

To achieve the mission and realize the vision of the Hydropower Program, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) has identified five core R&D activity areas: 

1) Innovations for Low-Impact Hydropower Growth

2) Grid Reliability, Resilience, & Integration (HydroWIRES)

3) Fleet Modernization, Maintenance, & Cybersecurity

4) Environmental & Hydrologic Systems Science

5) Data Access & Analytics.

Through the revised hydropower strategy, WPTO aims to clearly communicate the rationale for and organization of possible DOE-supported hydropower R&D from now to 2030.

Featured Work

View of a hydropower facility and river at sunset.

HydroWIRES aims to understand, enable, and improve hydropower’s contributions to reliability, resilience, and integration in the rapidly evolving U.S. electricity system. 

water flowing at dusk.

Hydropower Vision is a first-of-its-kind comprehensive analysis to evaluate future pathways for low-carbon, renewable hydropower in the United States.


2019-2020 WPTO Accomplishments Report is Released
Letter from the Water Power Technologies Office Director, Alejandro Moreno
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Extending the Service Life of Hydropower Components
In 2019, PNNL successfully identified techniques to reduce cavitation erosion, improving performance and service life of hydropower components.
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Autonomous Oxygen Sensor Enables Safe, Timely Data Collection
In late 2019, PNNL’s new autonomous, mobile, water quality sensor platform was field-tested for the first time.
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Collaborative Interagency Prize Solicits Solutions for Protecting Fish
In 2020, three winners were selected for the Fish Protection Prize, a competition soliciting ideas to protect fish from water infrastructure.
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Seeking Solutions for FAST Pumped-Storage Hydro Development
In October 2019, WPTO selected four grand prize winners for the Furthering Advancements to Shorten Time (FAST) Commissioning for PSH Prize.
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Acoustic Transmitter Improves Juvenile Fish Tracking and Analysis
PNNL has completed the development of new, highly miniaturized fish-tags, able to be quickly injected, even into tiny juvenile eel and lamprey.
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Analyzing Sensitive Species at Dams via Artificial Intelligence
The Electric Power Institute (EPRI) has successfully automated identification processes for young American eel tracked with multi-beam sonar.
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National Labs Commercialize Environmental Evaluation Tools
Under the HydroPASSAGE project, PNNL and ORNL are providing new information that can be used to increase fish survival and lower operational costs.
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The 21st Century Archimedes Screw
An Archimedes Hydrodynamic Screw turbine, using composite materials and advanced manufacturing methods, is reducing costs and improving efficiency.
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Shoring Up Resilience Through Hydropower and PSH
Rapid changes in the U.S. electricity system have created new needs for grid services that hydropower and PSH are well-suited to provide.
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WPTO's Hydropower e-newsletter features news on R&D and applied science to advance sustainable hydropower and pumped-storage technologies.
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