U.S. in-river hydropower potential is 3 percent of yearly energy demand

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) recently completed a mapping and assessment of hydrokinetic resources in rivers of the continental U.S. and found that these undeveloped resources could provide 3 percent of the nation’s annual use of electricity.

The assessment is part of an effort by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to characterize U.S. hydrokinetic hydropower resources including river, wave, tidal, ocean thermal and ocean current. EPRI completed an ocean wave energy mapping and assessment in 2011.

The assessment analyzed 71,398 river segments across the 48 contiguous states and additional river segments in Alaska. It yielded a total theoretical resource estimate of 1,381 TWh/yr for the continental U.S., which is equivalent to about 25 percent of annual U.S. electricity consumption.

The technically recoverable resource estimate for the continental United States is 120 TWh/yr, which represents about 3 percent of annual U.S. electricity consumption.

The results show that the Lower Mississippi region contributes almost half (47.9 percent) of the technically recoverable resource estimate; Alaska 17.1 percent, the Pacific Northwest region 9.2 percent, and, the Ohio region 5.7 percent. Collectively these four regions comprise 80 percent of the technically recoverable hydrokinetic resource in the continental U.S.

By comparison, EPRI’s 2011 wave energy assessment, which calculated ocean wave potential, found an estimated 2,600 TWh/yr and 1,120 TWh/yr of theoretically and technically recoverable resources respectively.

These assessments are a major improvement over estimates for hydrokinetic waterpower resources EPRI completed in 2007, noting that better data and analytical tools are now available that provide a more accurate picture of these resources.

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