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Top 15 Hydropower Producing States in America

Check out the top 15 hydropower producing states in America, a country which is the fourth largest hydropower producer in the world. In 2015, the United States generated 250,148 GWh of hydroelectric power. At the same time, around 6% of all US electricity was obtained from hydropower, which is currently the most exploited renewable source of energy.

Hydropower, the power which is produced from the energy of moving water, has been used for centuries. In ancient Greece, people relied on falling water’s force to move water mills which ground wheat into flour. Today, hydropower provides 16.6% of global electricity and accounts for 85% of all electricity produced from renewable resources. It is expected that in following years world’s reliance on hydropower will continue to increase.

There are two strong reasons which justify production of electricity from running water. First and foremost, hydropower is renewable, which means that there is no danger that one-day resources will run out as it is the case with fossil fuels. Secondly, it is green and its generation is not accompanied by greenhouse gas emission. Both reasons appear compelling especially if we bear in mind that we are using a much greater amount of resources than Earth can produce, while at the same time pollution has reached a critical point which requires immediate action.

However, hydropower has downsides as well, including high costs and environmental impact.  Costs of building a hydropower plant are considerable. According to Energy Information Administration (EIA), an average cost of hydropower generators installed in 2013 in the US was 2,294$/Kw, which is more than double compared to costs of generators that run on natural gas or petroleum liquids. At the same time, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that costs of large-scale hydropower projects range from 1,000$/Kw to 3,500$/Kw depending on whether project location has adequate infrastructure. For instance, installation of a hydropower plant in a place where a dam already exists can cost only 500$/Kw, while in others it can be more than 3,500$/Kw.

Installing new hydropower capacity sometimes requires flooding of large areas of land which are habitat for diverse wildlife. Hydropower facilities also disturb aquatic ecosystems – they can cause a change in water volume, temperature, oxygen levels, which in turn, affects the life of water organisms. In addition, dams interfere with salmon migration patterns, while turbines might kill fish. Finally, in recent years hydropower plants were blamed for calamities such earthquakes and floods.

At the end of 2015 global hydropower capacity was 1,064 GW, which represented the increase compared to 1,036 GW in 2014. Eight countries – China, Brazil, the United States, Canada, the Russian Federation, India, and Norway – accounted for 63% of all installed capacities. China is a leader in hydropower development – in 2015 the country added more capacity that the rest of the world combined. Other countries which have seen increase in hydropower projects were Brazil, Turkey, India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Canada, Colombia. At the same time, China ranked as a leading hydropower producer with 1,126 TWh. Unlike many other countries in which hydropower output declined due to unfavorable weather conditions, China recently increased hydropower production by 5%. If you would like to find out which other countries in the world are leading hydropower producers, you can read our article 8 Countries that Produce the Most Hydroelectric Power in the World, which is based on data from 2010 to 2012.

In creating the list of top 15 hydropower producing states in America, we relied on data provided by EIA. We ranked states by net hydroelectricity generation in 2015, and net electricity generation in September 2016. We calculated average ranking to come up with the final list.

15. Oklahoma

Net electricity generation 2015 (thousand MWh): 2,664

Net electricity generation, September 2016 (thousand MWh): 198

Oklahoma is a home to some of the largest oil and natural gas fields in America. In addition, it has significant coal deposits so it is not a surprise that the state generates electricity mainly from fossil fuels. However, it also uses renewable resources, mostly wind and hydropower. Hydroelectricity accounts for around 3% of all Oklahoma’s electric power.

Top 15 Hydropower Producing States in America

14. Maine

Net electricity generation 2015 (thousand MWh): 3,361

Net electricity generation, September 2016 (thousand MWh): 191

We are continuing our list of hydropower producing states in America with Maine that heavily relies on renewable resources for electricity generation. Two-thirds of state’s electricity is produced by hydroelectric dams and biomass. Hydropower facilities generated 30% of electrical power in 2015, which is second highest share among states located east of the Mississippi River (only in Vermont electricity produced from falling water accounted for a greater share of total electric power).

Top 15 Hydropower Producing States in America

13. Kentucky

Net electricity generation 2015 (thousand MWh): 3,403

Net electricity generation, September 2016 (thousand MWh): 209

Kentucky is another state on this list which is rich in fossil fuels, mainly coal. The state is third-largest coal producer in the US and coal plants produce nine-tenths of the state’s electricity. Among renewable resources, Kentucky mainly relies on hydropower which provides around 4% of electricity.

12. North Carolina

Net electricity generation 2015 (thousand MWh): 4,472

Net electricity generation, September 2016 (thousand MWh): 234

North Carolina, one of the hydropower producing states in America, relies on nuclear power and hydropower for electricity production. It is the fifth largest producer of electricity from nuclear energy in America. At the same time, hydropower facilities generate more than a half of all electricity produced from renewable resources. Besides hydropower, North Carolina also exploits biomass and solar energy.

Top 15 Hydropower Producing States in America

11. Arkansas

Net electricity generation 2015 (thousand MWh): 3,569

Net electricity generation, September 2016 (thousand MWh): 251

In Arkansas, number 11 on our list of hydropower producing states in America,  electricity is mainly produced from coal – about half of electrical power is produced from this fuel. As the state does not have large coal deposits, it obtains the fuel from other states such as Wyoming and Oklahoma. Besides coal, electricity is generated from hydropower which provides two-thirds of all electricity generated from renewable resources.

Top 15 Hydropower Producing States in America

10. South Dakota

Net electricity generation 2015 (thousand MWh): 4,850

Net electricity generation, September 2016 (thousand MWh): 363

Unlike previously mentioned states, South Dakota, one of the hydropower producing states in America, is not rich in oil, natural gasses or coal, which is a reason why it heavily relies on renewable resources, mainly hydropower and the wind. More than half of state’s electricity is generated from hydroelectric dams located on Missouri River. The Wind is another heavily exploited renewable resource in the state – one-fourth of South Dakota’s electricity comes from the wind, which is second largest percentage in America.

Top 15 Hydropower Producing States in America

9. Alabama

Net electricity generation 2015 (thousand MWh): 9,862

Net electricity generation, September 2016 (thousand MWh): 325

Alabama, one of the leading producers of electricity in America, mainly generates electrical power from coal and natural gasses. It also uses hydropower and biomass for obtaining electricity. Around 6% of all state’s electricity comes from hydroelectric dams. Hydroelectricity accounts for 75% of electrical power generated from renewable resources.

8. Tennessee

Net electricity generation 2015 (thousand MWh): 9,581

Net electricity generation, September 2016 (thousand MWh): 478

The largest share of electricity in Tennessee, which occupies the eight place on our list of top 15 hydropower producing states in America, is generated in coal-fueled plants. Nuclear plants are second largest electricity producer in the state while hydropower is the leading renewable resource for electricity production. Hydroelectric facilities generate one-eighth of state’s electricity which places Tennessee among top three hydroelectric producers east of the Rocky Mountains.

Top 15 Hydropower Producing States in America

7. Idaho

Net electricity generation 2015 (thousand MWh): 8,757

Net electricity generation, September 2016 (thousand MWh): 544

Idaho ranks as one of the leading states in the production of energy from renewable resources. Until recently hydropower facilities generated around four-fifths of state’s electricity. Due to droughts, the share of electricity produced from hydropower decreased to little more than one-half. The rest comes from the wind, biomass, natural gas and other resources. Idaho uses more electricity than it produces, so it depends on supplies that come from out-of-state resources.

Top 15 Hydropower Producing States in America

6. Arizona

Net electricity generation 2015 (thousand MWh): 6,536

Net electricity generation, September 2016 (thousand MWh): 563

Arizona is a home to the largest nuclear power plant in the US – Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. Besides nuclear power, the state also relies on coal and natural gas for electricity production. These three resources together provide nine-tenths of all electricity while the rest mainly comes from hydropower and solar energy. The greatest share of hydroelectricity is produced by Glen Canyon Dam and Hoover Dam, which are among largest plants in America.

Top 15 Hydropower Producing States in America

5. Montana

Net electricity generation 2015 (thousand MWh): 9,888

Net electricity generation, September 2016 (thousand MWh): 535

Montana, the state which has the largest recoverable reserves of coal in America and which produces 5% of the country’s coal, generates more than half of its electricity from this fuel. The other half is generated mainly from hydropower as the state exploits benefits of Missouri River. Montana uses only half of produced electricity, and the rest is distributed to other states.

Top 15 Hydropower Producing States in America

4. Oregon

Net electricity generation 2015 (thousand MWh): 31,254

Net electricity generation, September 2016 (thousand MWh): 1,916

In terms of hydroelectricity generation in 2015, Oregon is second largest hydropower producer in America. The state occupies fourth place on this list because of lower hydroelectricity generation during September last year. More than half of all electricity is produced in hydropower facilities and four largest among them are located on the Columbia River. Besides hydropower the state is rich in wind and geothermal potential.

Top 15 Hydropower Producing States in America

3. New York

Net electricity generation 2015 (thousand MWh): 26,015

Net electricity generation, September 2016 (thousand MWh): 1,953

Next in line on our list of hydropower producing states in America is the New York that is a home to the largest hydropower plant in the east part of America. Robert Moses Niagara plant has 13 generators whose capacity is 2,525 MW. Hydropower facilities provide one-fifth of all electricity in the state while the rest is obtained mainly from nuclear power and natural gas. Besides hydropower, which is the most exploited renewable source of energy, New York also relies on wind and biomass for electricity production.

2. California

Net electricity generation 2015 (thousand MWh): 13,808

Net electricity generation, September 2016 (thousand MWh): 2297

The greatest share of electricity, three-fifths of total generation, is provided by natural gas fueled plants. The rest is obtained from nuclear power and hydropower plants. Four years ago electricity generated from nuclear power almost halved because two reactors in the San Onofre plant were shut down. At the same time production of hydroelectricity varies due to weather conditions. When there is enough precipitation, hydroelectricity can account for one-fourth of total electrical energy. However in 2015 hydroelectricity’s share in total electricity dropped to one-tenth because of drought. When weather interferes with electricity production from hydropower, California relies on other renewable resources such as solar and wind energy.

Top 15 Hydropower Producing States in America

1. Washington

Net electricity generation 2015 (thousand MWh): 73,405

Net electricity generation, September 2016 (thousand MWh): 4,083

Washington ranks as first on our list of top 15 hydropower producing states in America. Around one-fourth of all America’s hydroelectricity is generated in Washington. At the same time, the state is home to seventh largest hydropower plant in the world –  Grand Coulee, which is like many other hydropower plants located on the Columbia River. Between two-thirds and four-fifths of electricity produced in Washington come from hydropower facilities, while the rest is obtained from natural gas, nuclear power and coal. Washington exports significant share of its electricity to Canada and also supplies other US states.