Unlike wind and solar, hydropower offers dispatchable energy with proven, low-risk technology. Hydropower is the most reliable and established source of clean, renewable energy in the United States, with over 130 years of operating history.
Hydroelectric power generation is relatively simple. Falling water hits the blades of a turbine which causes a shaft within a generator to turn. That shaft is connected to an armature that consists of huge coils of wire surrounded by very large magnets. As the shaft turns, electric current is created.
Most hydropower stations are built on or near dams and reservoirs, which provide the “fall” or water pressure necessary to turn the turbine blades and generate power. The reservoirs created by dams provide a number of other benefits beyond power generation. They help control flooding, provide many recreational benefits, create a source for drinking water and a stable water supply for community and industry use, and provide habitat for a variety of wildlife.
Believe it or not, there are more than 80,000 dams in the U.S. However, according to the Hydro Research Foundation, just a small percentage, only 3% of existing dams have been developed with hydroelectric capability. Thirty percent are located in environmentally sensitive zones and should not be developed, while the remaining 60% of existing dams offer tremendous opportunity for growth. In short, the potential for hydropower is enormous. And the greatest immediate potential lies in electrifying existing dams for hydropower and maximizing their capacity and output.
Cube Carolinas believes that hydropower is a critical component of the United States’ strategy to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and move toward clean, renewable energy sources. In 2010, hydropower produced 62% of total U.S. renewable electricity generation. The National Hydropower Association estimates that the U.S. can double its hydroelectric power by 2030 in an environmentally safe and sound manner.
The time for hydropower is now. Simply put, it’s the most available, affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy source on the planet.