The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the largest operator of hydroelectric power plants in the United States and one of the largest in the world. The 75 Corps plants have a total installed capacity of nearly 24,000 megawatts and produce over 70 billion kilowatt-hours a year. This is approximately 24% of the nation’s total hydropower output.
Hydropower offers numerous advantages over alternative fuels. It is:
- Renewable. The earth provides a continual supply of water from rainfall and snowmelt.
- Efficient. Hydropower plants convert about 90 percent of the energy in falling water into electricity.
- Clean. Hydropower plants do not emit waste heat and gases.
- Reliable. Hydropower machinery is relatively simple, which makes it reliable and durable.
- Flexible. Units can start quickly and adjust rapidly to changes in electricity demand.
Corps hydropower plants play a key role in the economy by offering an affordable power source, which helps keep overall energy prices down. Because they don't use fossil fuels Corps hydropower plants also are better for the environment than other sources of electrical power. Without hydropower, the U.S. would have to burn much more coal, oil, and natural gas every year. The increasing availability of hydropower also helps reduce America's dependence on other nations for fuel.
The Corps collaborates on its hydropower efforts with the Department of Energy and a variety of other federal, regional and state agencies and private companies. The Corps is in the process of upgrading many of its facilities to increase efficiency and reliability. Because of its significant advantages over other energy sources, hydropower will continue to play an important role in meeting the nation's energy needs in the years to come.