Although more than 92,000 dams populate the country, the vast majority — about 89,000 — do not generate electricity through hydropower.
Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are assessing the viability of retrofitting some of these non-powered dams, which may add up to 12 gigawatts of additional electricity to the power grid — enough to power 9 million homes or every home in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.
In a new report released by the U.S. Department of Energy, ORNL identifies key development challenges, including aging infrastructure, dam design limitations, costs, timelines and environmental considerations. The goal is to accelerate design approaches and innovations that increase energy from hydropower while ensuring environmental compatibility and economic feasibility.
“Hydropower has over 100 years of history in the U.S.,” said ORNL’s Scott DeNeale. “DOE’s continued investments position the industry well to power untapped water infrastructure while achieving low-impact renewable energy growth.” — Mimi McHale