Friday, June 4, 2010

Hydropower Potential - IV

China's Three Gorges Dam, largest hydropower facility in the world
Alternative Energy eTrack aggregates multiple databases, news sources, insight from industry executives and other sources to produce data on the potential of various kinds of renewable energy. While the service is by subscription, some of the data sometimes appears elsewhere. For example, take this list of the top 10 countries for hydropower:
1. China - 179,056 MW
2. Brazil - 81,955 MW
3. United States - 78,054 MW
4. Canada - 75,287 MW
5. Russia - 46,756 MW
6. India - 39,546 MW
7. Norway - 29,317 MW
8. Japan - 22,089 MW
9. France - 20,850 MW
10. Sweden - 16,266 MW
It's interesting data for several reasons.

First, China's capacity is more than double that of the number two country, Brazil.

Second, all of the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) are in the top six; there is a good correlation of the world's fast-growing and significant economies with hydropower capacity to supply the electrical power these countries need to sustain their growth. The significant investment in renewable generation merits recognition at least as much as the opprobrium over their investment in dirty fossil energy.

Third, hydro dwarfs other renewables in the US, with only wind at the same order of magnitude:
Wind 35,296 MW
Biomass 9,391 MW
Geothermal 3,153 MW
Solar (PV) 1,488 MW
Biogas 1,047 MW
Solar (CSP) 900 MW
Fourth, comparing this data to the capacities cited by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that there has been little added hydro capacity since 2008, the last year available, but a healthy increase in wind capacity and substantial percentage increases in solar and biomass/biogas.

Finally, comparing these numbers to the overall US generating capacity of just more than a terrawatt (1,000,000 MW) shows how relatively paltry is the contribution of renewable sources to our electrical generation.

There is still a long way to go.
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