Why not put hydroelectric plants on existing dams? We don't have to build new dams. We can add 12,000 megawatts of clean, carbon-free hydropower on existing dams.
The law is for more than Colorado. But how high would the dam need to be to generate power?Unless Colorado has one *hell* of a lot more dams than I think they do, "12,000 megawatts" is someone's pipe dream....
...The map layer was created by extracting dams 50 feet or more in height, or with a normal storage capacity of 5,000 acre-feet or more, or with a maximum storage capacity of 25,000 acre-feet or more, from the 79,777 dams in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Inventory of Dams....
In contrast to the roughly 2,500 dams that provide 78 gigawatts (GW) 1 of conventional and 22 GW of pumped-storage hydropower, the United States has more than 80,000 non-powered dams (NPDs)—dams that do not produce electricity—providing a variety of services ranging from water supply to inland navigation. Importantly, many of the monetary costs and environmental impacts of dam construction have already been incurred at NPDs, so adding power to the existing dam structure can often be achieved at lower cost, with less risk, and in a shorter timeframe than development requiring new dam construction.
At a guess, I'd say the top 10 (big blue dots below) are a shoe-in.Adding power to U.S. NPDs has the potential to add up to 12 GW (12,000 megawatts or MW) of new renewable capacity—a potential equivalent to increasing the size of the existing conventional hydropower fleet by 15%. A majority of this potential is concentrated in just 100 NPDs, which could contribute approximately 8 GW of clean, reliable hydropower; the top 10 facilities alone could add up to 3 GW of new hydropower.
Eighty-one of the 100 top NPDs are U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) facilities, many of which, including all of the top 10, are navigation locks on the Ohio River, Mississippi River, Alabama River, and Arkansas River, as well as their major tributaries. T
This study also shows that dams owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation hold the potential to add approximately 260 MW of capacity
The main issue in hydro is always the "head," or the distance between the top of the water and the generator. Power is derived by a combination of head and flow (the total volume of water).I'm not saying that there isn't room to more fully harness the resources we have... but it's not quite as simple as 'throw a generator on it'. Most small stream-fed dams aren't going to have enough net head, or constant enough flow, to be worth the effort of installing and maintaining the necessary equipment. Dealing with the power marketing, scheduling and sale of such a variable energy source... would be challenging.