Hydro in the Pacific Northwest
According to an article posted on the EIA’s Today in Energy web page (June 27th) hydroelectric generation in the Columbia River Basin accounted for 44% of all hydro power in the US in 2012. The generation from this river system was 29 gigawatts. The map below is from the article.
It is worth noting this little bit of information on how the Grand Coulee Dam which is the largest hydro facility in the US compares to the largest nuclear facility in the US. Keep mind that in 2012 hydro provided about 7% of total US power generation while nuclear contributed about 19% according the EIA.
The Grand Coulee Dam in the state of Washington has the most capacity of any electric power plant in the United States, at 7,079 net megawatts. The Palo Verde nuclear plant in Arizona ranks second with a capacity of 3,937 net megawatts. But nuclear plants are able to use more of their capacity than hydropower facilities. In 2012, Grand Coulee generated over 26,461 gigawatthours of electricity, while Palo Verde generated more than 31,934 gigawatthours.
For now hydro remains the US largest provider of renewable carbon free power generation. But given the rapid growth in solar and wind along with the lack of new hydro locations means that position is destine to change. As an example this week’s report shows just how fast this is happening in California.