parallax background

Certrec's Hydro Market Research

The History of Hydro Energy in the United States

The use of water to generate power is one of the oldest methods humans have used to create power. Hydropower can be observed in methods of irrigation. It can also be observed in the process of grinding wheat into flour thousands of years ago.

Primitive versions of the modern hydropower turbine were pioneered by French hydraulic and military engineer, Bernard Forest de Bélidor. In the mid-1700s he wrote his book Architecture Hydraulique. 

The alternating current is the method used today to generate electricity. Through this method, power can be transmitted across long distances. This breakthrough resulted in the first U.S. commercial installation: Redlands Power Plant. The plant is located in California and began generating power in 1893.  

In 1902, the Bureau of Reclamation was established in the United States. This governmental agency provided water resource management to the western areas of the United States. Today, the Bureau of Reclamation is the second largest producer of hydropower in the nation.

The 20th saw the development of many large-scale hydropower projects in the U.S. President Roosevelt’s New Deal created construction programs that tripled the capacity of energy produced by hydropower from just 20 years earlier.  

Perhaps the most famous hydroelectric project, Hoover Dam, began construction in 1936. Built on the Colorado River, this ambitious project was created to provide irrigation water, control floods, and supply power to Arizona and Nevada. 

 Today, the demand for non-carbon energy alternatives is greater than ever. The United States is utilizing hydropower to meet increasing energy needs and meet carbon reduction goals.

How do Hydro Plants Work?

Hydroelectricity is produced by utilizing the gravity of falling water to turn a turbine. For this reason, dams are built on large rivers with drops in elevation. The dam stores lots of water behind it in the reservoir. Near the bottom of the dam wall, there is the water intake. Gravity causes it to fall through the penstock inside the dam. 

At the penstock's end is a turbine propeller, which is turned by the moving water. The shaft from the turbine goes up into the generator, which produces the power. Power lines are connected to the generator that carries electricity to its destination. The water continues past the propellor through the tailrace into the river past the dam.


Hydro Market Data

Hydroelectricity is one of the most popular renewable energy generation technologies for many reasons. It does not emit greenhouse gases or toxic waste and it’s one of the cheapest ways to generate electricity (running water). About a fifth of the world’s total electricity comes from hydropower and it is employed by more than 60 countries around the world. From water management, flood control, and its ability to respond to fluctuations in electricity call -- hydropower is increasingly popular. 

In 2020, the hydropower installed capacity reached 1330 GW and it is anticipated to install approximately 1520 GW by 2027, at a CAGR of 1.93% during the forecast period of 2022 - 2027. Like with most markets, COVID-19 has significantly impacted the global hydropower market. Some projects are expected to be delayed during the forecast period due to lockdown measures and supply chain issues. Still, factors such as the increasing number of new hydropower projects and the rising demand for reliable electricity are expected to drive the market. 

Large hydropower (greater than 100MW) is likely to be the largest segment. This is possible because of increasing investment in large hydropower and pumped storage projects alongside several major countries’ efforts to reach renewable energy targets and utilize cleaner energy sources. 

Also, new technology trends are expected to increase hydropower generation and provide great opportunities for the hydro market in the next few years. Asia-Pacific is expected to be the fastest-growing market with the majority of the demand coming from countries like Chanina, India, and Japan. 

The high initial investment cost of hydroelectric infrastructure and safety concerns as this technology develops can restrict the worldwide market. Though it is a renewable energy source and is environmentally friendly, creating new hydroelectric facilities is difficult due to strict state and federal regulations and a lack of suitable locations. Current industry players are looking to upgrade facilities as the call for electricity increases.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, by Q1 of 2022 the five states with the most solar capacity installed are:

  • Washington (70,442 MW)
  • Oregon (28,361 MW)
  • New York (27,973 MW)
  • California (14,559 MW)
  • Tennessee (12,850 MW)


Ten Largest Hydro Plants in the United States

10. Castaic Power Plant

The Castaic Power Plant is a seven-unit pumped-storage hydroelectric plant located in Los Angeles County, California. It’s operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and provides peak load power from the falling water on the West Branch of the California State Aqueduct. It’s a cooperative venture between the LADWP and the Department of Water Resources of the State of California. Its upper reservoir creates Pyramid Lake and has a total capacity of 186,000 acres. Its lower reservoir creates Elderberry Forebay and has a 28,400-acre total capacity. The power station’s hydraulic head is 1,060 ft and features 7 turbines and 6 pump-generators. It also has an installed capacity of 1507 MW (nominal) and annually generates 880,702,000 kWh. 

9. Racoon Mountain Pumped-Storage Plant

The Raccoon Mountain Pumped-Storage Plant is a pumped-storage hydroelectric underground power station in Marion County in the state of Tennessee. The facility is owned and operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Water is pumped from the Nickajack Lake on the Tennessee River at the base of Raccoon Mountain to a storage reservoir built on the top of the mountain. The reservoir covers 528 acres with a dam that is 230 feet high and 5,800 feet long. 

The plant has a maximum power output of 1,652 MW and can generate for up to 22 hours. The plant is used most days and serves as an important element for peak power generation and grid balancing in the TVA system. 

8. The Dalles Dam

The Dalles Dam is a concrete-gravity run-of-the-river dam spanning the Columbia River. It’s two miles east of the city of The Dalles, Oregon. It’s operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and marketed by Bonneville Power Administration. It’s 200 feet high and 8,835 feet long. It has a spillway capacity of 2,290,000 cu ft/s and its reservoir has a total capacity of 330,000 acres. The power station features 22 turbines with an installed capacity of 1,878.3 MW and an annual generation of 6,180 GWh. 

7. Chief Joseph Dam

Chief Joseph Dam is a concrete gravity dam on the Columbia River in Washington. It is operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers and marketed by the Bonneville Power Administration. Its Dam is 236 ft tall and its spillway capacity is 6,030 m^3/s. The reservoir creates Rufus Woods Lake and features a total capacity of 516,000 acres. It features 27 Francis turbines and has an installed capacity of 2,620 MV with an annual generation of 9,780 GWh. 

6. Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River border between Nevada and Arizona. It is owned by the United States Government and operated by the US Bureau of Reclamation. It’s 726.4 ft high and has a spillway capacity of 400,000 cu ft/s. Its reservoir creates Lake Mead and has a total capacity of 28,537,000 acres. Its Power Station features 19 turbines with an installed capacity of 2,080 MV and an annual generation of 3.3 TWh. 

5. John Day Dam

The John Day Dam is a concrete gravity run-of-the-river dam located in the northwestern United States. It’s operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers and is 184 ft high. Its reservoir creates Lake Umatilla and has a total capacity of 2,530,000 acres. Its power station features 16 turbines with an installed capacity of 2,160 MW and an annual generation of 8,418 GWh. 

4. Ludington Pumped-Storage Power

The Ludington Pumped Storage Plant is a hydroelectric plant and reservoir in Ludington, Michigan. It’s operated by Consumers Energy and jointly owned by Consumers Energy and DTE Energy. It consists of a reservoir 110 feet deep, 2.5 miles long, and one mile wide, which holds 27 billion US gallons or 82,859 acre-feet of water. The power plant consists of six reversible turbines that can each generate 312 MW of electricity for a total output of 1,872 MW. The project was given the 1973 award for “Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement” by the American Society of Civil Engineers

3. Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant

The Robert Moses Niagara Hydroelectric Power Station is a hydroelectric power station in Lewiston, New York, near Niagara Falls. It’s owned and operated by the New York Power Authority. It uses 13 generators at an installed capacity of 2,525 MW. The plant was built to replace power production after the Schoellkopf Power Station collapsed in 1956. 

2. Bath County Pumped-Storage Station

The Bath County Pumped Storage Station is a pumped storage hydroelectric power plant, described as “the largest battery in the world,” It has a maximum generation capacity of 3,003 MW and an average of 2,772 MW with a total storage capacity of 24,000 MWh. It’s located in Bath County, Virginia, and consists of two reservoirs separated by about 1,260 feet in elevation. 

1. Grand Coulee Dam

Grand Coulee Dam is a concrete gravity dam on the Columbia River in Washington. It was built to produce hydroelectric power and provide irrigation water. Grand Coulee is the largest power station in the United States by nameplate capacity at 6,809 MW. Power from the dam fueled the growing industries of the Northwest United States during World War II. Through a series of upgrades and installation of pump generators, the dam now supplies four power stations supplying water for the irrigation of 671,000 acres.


Speak with our Experts