Fed agencies aim to boost green hydropower projects

The agencies also hope to foster new development of low-impact projects (the kind that don’t involve big new dams) on federal lands.

“The Agencies will identify specific federal facilities and lands owned or controlled by the United States that are well-suited as sites for environmentally sustainable hydropower energy development,” the MOU states. “This new approach to hydropower development will advance projects that are superior in terms of environmental sensitivity to many other types of energy production and development.”

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said there’s potential for as much as 60,000 megawatts of environmentally-friendly hydropower nationwide. “Even if we capture just a small fraction, it would be enormous,” Chu said. (For comparison, coal-fired power plants are often in the 500-1,000 megawatt range.)

Chu said hydropower can help play a role in the expansion of energy sources that do not emit greenhouse gases. “I am for hydropower because I’m an environmentalist,” he said at a press conference Wednesday at the Interior Department.

The agencies are touting the potential for technologies such as fish-friendly turbines.