Historical Facts

The first hydropower plant in the U.S. began operations on the Fox River near Appleton, Wisconsin in 1882.

Learn more about the history of hydropower in the U.S.

Hydropower is Reliable

Hydropower is a proven renewable energy resource generated and used in all regions of the U.S. for over a century, today providing approximately 30 million homes with affordable power.

Hydropower facilities can quickly go from zero power to maximum output, making them exceptionally good at meeting rapidly changing demands for electricity throughout the day.

Powerhouse Modernization

Because hydropower plants are the only major generators that can dispatch power to the grid immediately when all other energy sources are inaccessible, they provide essential back-up power during major electricity disruptions such as the 2003 blackout. An estimated 50 million people living in states from New York to Michigan were affected by the blackout, but hydropower facilities in New York and elsewhere, like the Niagara and St. Lawrence-FDR plants, operated continuously through the blackout and helped to restore power to millions of Americans. This unique operational ability, known as blackstart, means that hydropower facilities can resume operations in isolation without drawing on an outside power source.

“[During the blackout,] one relatively large island remained in operation serving about 5,700 MW of demand, mostly in western New York, anchored by the Niagara and St. Lawrence hydro plants. This island formed the basis for restoration in both New York and Ontario.”

— US-Canada Power System Outage Task Force report, 2005

Rivers, tides and waves are a constant source of energy, and hydropower’s proven reliability means that it is an integral part of the overall renewable energy mix and can support other renewable energy sources as they are brought onto the grid. Pumped storage, a type of hydropower technology, can actually help store the electricity generated by other power sources like solar, wind, and nuclear for later use. The technology stores energy in the form of water in an upper reservoir, pumped from a second reservoir at a lower elevation.

“America has only just begun to understand the potential of hydropower. While newer forms of alternative renewable energy have attracted much attention lately, hydropower has been around for decades and continues to grow as a reliable source of green energy.”

— Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell