Preprint Article Version 1 This version is not peer-reviewed

Impact of a Warming Climate on Hydropower in the Northeast United States: The Untapped Potential of Non-Powered Dams

Version 1 : Received: 15 November 2017 / Approved: 19 November 2017 / Online: 19 November 2017 (05:29:52 CET)

How to cite: Ehsani, N.; Vörösmarty, C.J.; Fekete, B.M.; Stakhiv, E.Z. Impact of a Warming Climate on Hydropower in the Northeast United States: The Untapped Potential of Non-Powered Dams. Preprints 2017, 2017110116 (doi: 10.20944/preprints201711.0116.v1). Ehsani, N.; Vörösmarty, C.J.; Fekete, B.M.; Stakhiv, E.Z. Impact of a Warming Climate on Hydropower in the Northeast United States: The Untapped Potential of Non-Powered Dams. Preprints 2017, 2017110116 (doi: 10.20944/preprints201711.0116.v1).

Abstract

A large-scale, high-resolution, fully coupled hydrological/reservoir/hydroelectricity model is used to investigate the impacts of climate change on hydroelectricity generation and hydropower potential of non-powered dams across the Northeast United States megaregion with 11,037 dams and 375 hydroelectric power plants. The model is calibrated and validated using the U.S. Department of Energy records. Annual hydroelectricity generation in the region is 41 Terawatt-hours (Twh). Our estimate of the hydropower potential of non-powered dams adds up to 350 Twh. West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York have significant potential for generating more hydroelectricity from already existing dams. On the other hand, this potential virtually does not exist for Rhode Island and Delaware and is small for New Jersey and Vermont. Climate change may reduce annual hydropower potential from non-powered dams by up to 13% and reduce current annual hydroelectricity generation by up to 8% annually. Increased rainfall in winters and earlier snowmelt in springs result in an increase in regional water availability in December through March. In other months, reduced precipitation and increased potential evapotranspiration rates combined with reduced recharge from the shift in spring snowmelt and smaller snowpack result in a decrease in availability of water and thus hydroelectricity generation. This changes call for the recalibration of dam operations and may raise conflict of interests in multipurpose dams.

Subject Areas

hydropower; climate change; renewable energy; dams

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