Federal agencies renew five-year partnership on hydropower

A trio of federal organizations announced March 24 that they have renewed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) first reached in 2010 to advance hydroelectric power in the United States.

The Department of Energy (DOE), the Interior Department and the Department of the Army for Civil Works announced that the three agencies have extended their partnership to advance hydropower development for an additional five years.

At a signing ceremony at the Department of the Interior, the agencies celebrated the accomplishments of the first 5-years of this partnership, and recognized the value of continued collaboration driven by a detailed, shared action plan. The partnership will help meet the need for reliable, affordable and environmentally sustainable hydropower by strengthening a long-term working relationship, sharing priorities, and aligning ongoing and future renewable energy development efforts across the agencies.

The Memorandum of Understanding for Hydropower – Sustainable Hydropower Action Plan (Phase II) announced March 24 renews the agencies’ commitment with a second phase of collaboration, the agencies said in a statement.

This action plan aims to support the Obama Administration’s goals for doubling renewable energy generation by 2020 and improving federal permitting processes for clean energy as called for in the President’s Climate Action Plan.

The federal agencies said they are advancing President Obama’s goal of generating 80% of energy from clean energy sources by 2035.

“As a leader in the hydropower industry, the Army is proud of our hydroelectric generation and greatly support the extension of the original MOU as well as the Action Plan for Phase II,” said Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy. “It will help meet the Nation’s needs for reliable, affordable, and environmentally sustainable hydropower by building a long-term working relationship, prioritizing similar goals, and aligning ongoing and future renewable energy development efforts between DOE, DOI, and the Army Corps of Engineers.”

Through continued collaboration and partnerships with other federal agencies, the hydropower industry, the research community, and numerous stakeholders, the agencies will work toward the following objectives, among others:

•        Improve the accuracy and reduce costs of water flow measurement technology, which, if successful, could increase generation at existing plants and improve the productivity of new hydropower systems yet to be installed.

•        Evaluate new superconducting generator technology that could significantly reduce the size and weight of generators for new hydropower projects, potentially leading to reduced costs and increased generator output for existing facilities.

•        Further develop low-impact, low-cost hydropower technologies suitable for demonstration and deployment at non-powered dams and conduits, where there is potential to increase U.S. hydropower generation by more than 17,500 gigawatt hours per year – equivalent to powering more than 1.5 million U.S. homes per year.

•        Develop design tools to improve the environmental performance of hydropower turbines for responsible deployment.

•        Further assess the risks to U.S. hydropower generation and water infrastructure posed by climate change.

Since these efforts were initiated, there has also been an increased interest in private hydropower development at federal facilities. Following the 2010 MOU, ten non-federal projects, comprising 33 MW of capacity, have come online at Bureau of Reclamation facilities, with an additional 40 projects initiated and currently in development. For the Army Corps of Engineers, three non-federal projects comprising 19.4 MW of capacity have also come online, with an additional 32 projects initiated and currently in some stage of development.

The renewal document notes that hydro is the largest source of renewable electric generation in the United States.

“The MOU agencies have complementary and overlapping roles in the domain of hydropower research, planning, development, and operations,” according to an executive summary of the 2015 document. “This Action Plan provides a structure for collaborative activities that clarifies those roles and enhances the efficiency and benefits of coordinated activities in the following areas: (a) Technology Development, (b) Asset Management, (c) Hydropower Sustainability, (d) Quantifying Hydropower Capabilities and Value in Power Systems, and (e) Information Sharing, Coordination, and Strategic Planning.”


About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.