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Additional Hydro Identified at USBR Sites

by Staff
International Water Power & Dam Construction, April 13, 2012

The Department of Interior in the US has identified 373 existing Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) canals and conduits that have the combined potential of generating an additional 365,219MWh of hydropower annually.

The finding builds upon the 191 existing USBR dam and reservoir sites identified in 2011 with a potential of 1.2M MWh annually. USBR has now identified a potential for 1.565M MWh of additional electricity that could be generated annually at existing conduits.

"Hydropower is an important part of President Obama's initiative to generate 80% of electricity in this country from a diverse set of clean energy sources by 2035," Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said. "Identifying and developing hydropower potential at existing facilities is one way we're putting the all-of-the-above strategy to develop American energy sources into practice."

The new March 2012 report, Site Inventory and Hydropower Energy Assessment of Reclamation Owned Conduits, prepared by the USBR, supplements a March 2011 report, Hydropower Resource Assessment at Existing Reclamation Facilities. The 2011 report estimated that additional hydropower capabilities could create enough renewable energy to annually power more than 104,000 households. The 2012 report adds the potential from canals and conduits.

"Developing hydropower in existing publicly owned canals gives us an additional source of consistent, sustainable and reliable energy supplies in the West, with minimal impact on other natural resources," added Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle. "Adding power generation to these canals would provide power for up to 32,500 households. Combined with the generation potential at existing dams and reservoirs, up to 136,500 households could be served. These reports highlight the exciting potential for new, environmentally sustainable hydropower development and creation of related jobs at existing facilities throughout the western United States."

The assessment shows that about 70% of the potential capacity is located in three states: Colorado, Oregon and Wyoming, although 13 of the 17 western states have new generation potential from conduits.

This assessment provides information to USBR and potential private developers so they can determine whether to study these sites for development. The report includes the capacity, energy potential and proximity to distribution/transmission lines for each site. The report also provides site maps.

Development of hydropower at the identified sites would proceed along one of USBR's normal hydropower development processes - either through USBR's Lease of Power Privilege process or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's licensing process, depending on which entity has jurisdiction over a particular project.

If a project is developed under the Lease of Power Privilege process, the project may be eligible to proceed through an existing Categorical Exclusion from NEPA requirements which should save the developer time and money. USBR recently issued a temporary directive and standard for its Lease of Power Privilege requirements and process.

USBR manages more than 47,000 miles of canals, laterals, drains, pipelines and tunnels. Sites included in this supplemental report as having potential for hydropower development have a drop of at least five feet, operate for at least four months of the year, and have a generation potential of at least 50kW based upon flow rate of canal and the drop height. Not all of USBR's canals meet these criteria.

Both the 2011 and 2012 reports support the 2010 Memorandum of Understanding among the Department of the Interior, the Department of Energy, and the Army Corps of Engineers that enhances the coordination of their efforts to provide the nation with affordable, reliable and environmentally sustainable hydropower.

To download both the 2011 and 2012 reports, visit USBR's website at

Additional Hydro Identified at USBR Sites
International Water Power & Dam Construction, April 13, 2012

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