Researcher Team:
Tom Ravens, UAA; Paul Jacobson, EPRI; Keith Cunningham, UAF; George Scott, NREL

Summary:

This research assesses the riverine hydrokinetic energy resource in the Continental US for the Department of Energy. The team determined the theoretically available energy as well as the technically recoverable energy in river segments throughout the Continental US. For the “Lower 48”, the theoretical resource (1146 Terawatt-hours/year) was estimated based on USGS’s NHDPlus database. For Alaska, the theoretical resource (287 Terawatt-hours /year) was estimated based on Idaho National Lab’s Hydro-Prospector. For reference, the total US demand for electricity is about 4000 Terawatt-hours /year.

To estimate the technically recoverable resource, UAA did a number of case studies to estimate the fraction of the theoretical resource that would be available, given depth and velocity requirement, industry guidelines for device spacing, and “back effects”. This fraction, referred to as the “Recovery Factor”, depended on discharge and river slope and ranged from 0 to 0.26 for river segments representing the range of conditions throughout the US. The technical resource for the Continental US was estimated to be about 101 Terawatt-hours /year.Alaska’s technical resource was estimated to be about 20 Terawatt-hours/year. The figure below indicates the distribution of the technically recoverable hydrokinetic resource (Terawatt-hours/year/km) in the Lower 48. 

View of lower 48 indicating the technically recoverable hydrokinetic energy resource. 

Documents/Links:

Report: Assessment and Mapping of the Riverine Hydrokinetic Resource in the Continental United States

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