The U.S. Department of Energy will invest almost $600 million to advance hydroelectric power and marine technology throughout the country as part of President Biden’s Investing in America plan, with a goal of utilizing the vast potential of the renewable energy source.
Less than 3% of the 90,000 dams in the United States currently produce power – hydropower provides 6% of all electricity in the nation. However, it makes up 32% of renewable electricity generation and 93% of all utility-scale energy storage. Adding generation equipment to aging hydropower sites could add up to 12 gigawatts of hydropower capacity to the U.S. electric system.
Up to $554 million in payments will be provided to maintain and enhance hydroelectric facilities. The DOE also is earmarking $45 million in funding from the same law for a pilot demonstration site and a community-led tidal or current energy project in the U.S.
The funding will play a role in achieving Biden’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. The funding also represents the DOE’s largest investments in both hydropower and marine energy, the department said. The investment will ensure generators are able to continue providing clean and affordable electricity while incorporating additional renewable energy resources as well as reducing environmental impacts.
The DOE is currently accepting applications for the Maintaining and Enhancing Hydroelectricity Incentives, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which the Department of Transportation said is the largest long-term federal investment in infrastructure and economy in the country’s history.
Hydropower, or hydroelectricity, is affordable and provides low-cost electricity and durability over time compared to other energy sources, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. It provides multiple benefits other than electricity generation like flood control, irrigation support, and clean drinking water.
The Maintaining and Enhancing Hydroelectricity Incentives program plans to upgrade hydropower and pumped storage facilities for capital improvements related to grid resilience, dam safety, and environmental effects.
There are multiple opportunities for eligible capital improvements, such as:
- Improvements that enable the integration of resources such as wind and solar.
- Improvements for dam safety, such as erosion repair and upgrades to spillways.
- Improvements in conditions effects, such as water quality, fish passage, and recreation.
Existing eligible hydroelectric facilities can apply for up to $553.6 million in funding. Applicants must first file a letter of intent through the Clean Energy Infrastructure Funding Opportunity Exchange to be eligible to file a full application. Letters of intent are due June 22, 2023, and full applications are due October 6, 2023.
Tidal energy and current technologies transform natural energy from moving water, such as the flow of oceans and rivers, into clean electricity. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, oceans and rivers hold nearly 60% of the total power and electricity needs in the U.S.
The $45 million of funding will encourage U.S. advancement in tidal and current energy development, develop the sector’s supply chain and workforce, and meet community energy priorities. It will be the first large-scale investment in a tidal and energy research, development, and demonstration site in the U.S., according to the DOE.
There are two topic areas that the funding will support. One will provide up to $35 million for the development of a pilot tidal and/or current energy technology demonstration site in state waters. The second will provide up to $10 million to support a community-led tidal and/or current energy planning and development project.
Concept papers for the program are due June 5, 2023, and concept papers for the second topic area are due July 13, 2023.