Mar 26, 2015

Government Agencies Renew Five-Year Partnership to Advance Hydropower

The partnership will help meet the need for reliable, affordable and environmentally sustainable hydropower

Department of Energy Interior Army for Civil Works hydropower partnership MOU

The U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. 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. The renewal agreement commits the agencies to a specific, ambitious agenda for hydropower, building upon their Memorandum of Understanding for Hydropower (MOU) signed on March 24, 2010. 

At a signing ceremony at the Department of the Interior, the agencies celebrated the accomplishments of the first five 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) renews the agencies’ commitment with a second phase of collaboration. 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.

"Through the advancement of hydropower, the three agencies are helping meet President Obama's goal of generating 80% of our energy from clean energy sources by 2035," Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael L. Connor said. "This agreement continues Interior's commitment to renewable energy projects and expands on the original MOU by adding more goals and action items."

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 the collaborative agreement was initiated in 2010, there has been an increased interest in private hydropower development at federal facilities. Following the 2010 MOU, 10 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 megawatts of capacity have also come online, with an additional 32 projects initiated and currently in some stage of development.

Over the past five years the agencies have successfully fulfilled the commitments of the original MOU. Examples of these accomplishments include:

  • Completing numerous publicly available assessments and studies of different hydropower resources, including constructing a database for all existing U.S. hydropower infrastructure.
  • Developing tools for optimizing the operation of hydropower facilities and evaluating the potential for state-of-the-art upgrades and modernizations.
  • Funding several research projects that develop and demonstrate new hydropower generation technologies and minimize the environmental impacts of hydropower facilities.
  • Delivering a report to Congress that examines the potential effects of climate change on water available for hydropower generation at federal facilities.
  • Developing and implementing an integrative approach to assess complementary hydropower and environmental opportunities within several different river basins across the United States.
  • Improving the licensing process for the development of new, privately owned hydropower generation at existing federal dams and water infrastructure.

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