FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Where can I find the name, location, size and owner of hydroelectric projects in the United States?
There is no complete source for this information. One reason is that varying types of public and private ownership make tracking this information difficult. Another reason is that no single government agency has regulatory responsibility that spans all hydroelectric projects.
Web sites that are good sources for this type of information include:
• The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
• The Foundation for Water and Energy Education (FWEE) for projects in the Northwest
• The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
• The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
You can access these sites via our Hydro Links page. If you know the particular name or location of a project, you are also likely to find it by using an Internet search engine.
What is the average cost of building a hydroelectric project?
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in OECD countries, construction costs are usually less than $2 million per megawatt for large scale hydro (>300 MW) and $2-4 Million per megawatt for small and medium scale hydro.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2013 estimated that the capital cost for conventional hydroelectric is $2,936 per Kw of installed capacity. For pumped storage hydropower, the estimate is $5,288 per Kw.
This and similar types of information, however, should be used cautiously. Even for projects with the same capacity to generate electricity, the costs of building a hydroelectric project can vary dramatically. Examples of variables include engineering considerations unique to each site where a project may be located; the developers ability to transfer electricity generated to the power grid or end user location; and potential environmental mitigation needs.
What is the average cost of operating and maintaining a hydroelectric project?
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), based on 2012 data, the operation and maintenance of hydropower was 1.134 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity. The Department of Energy site with this information can be found via our Hydro Links page.
These average costs are generally significantly lower than other major sources of electric generation because hydropower does not rely on a fuel source that costs money to import. In addition, the use of gravity to turn turbines is an important factor in allowing the mechanics of operating a project to be very efficient.
I’d like to build a small hydroelectric project. Where can I get information to do this?
Although hydropower is very economical to produce, to site and build a project requires detailed engineering. A project is also likely to require construction and environmental permits from local, state and/or federal agencies.
The International Small Hydro Atlas website has excellent summary information on the development, engineering and financing requirements of small hydroelectric projects. Natural Resources Canada also has the RETScreen International tool available online to estimate costs for small hydropower. http://www.retscreen.net
The Hydro Research Foundation is presently developing and implementing an online technology catalog to identify projects, firms and consultants with project designs and development experience. This can be found at http://www.need.org/
The Colorado State Energy Office has published a small hydropower handbook which provides information on how to develop a small hydropower plant. While some of the information is geared to development in Colorado, there is also more generic information. http://www.ext.colostate.edu/energy/hydro-handbook.pdf.
Where can I get technical information on the building or refurbishment of a hydroelectric project?
There are a number of periodicals, newsletters and directories with current industry trends and up to date vendor information. Many of these resources can be found via our Hydro Links page. Web sites with this information commonly provide access to technical and research papers as well.
Our Research page also provides information on current and proposed research projects and research findings.
What is the historical development of hydropower in the United States?
The first hydroelectric projects in the United States were built in the 1880s. For an overview of how hydropower rapidly developed from that time to the present, two excellent resources are the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation web sites. Each can be accessed via our Hydro Links page.
Where can I find curriculum materials or science fair ideas for the classroom or home?
The Foundation for Water and Energy Education (FWEE) and the National Energy Education Development Project (NEED) have developed excellent curricula about hydropower for all levels of students. These resources can be accessed via our Hydro Links page.
What if I don’t find the information I’m looking for on this site?
If you can not find the information on this site or through our Hydro Links page that you are looking for, you can send a detailed request to HRF by contacting us. We will try to route your request to someone who can provide further assistance.