The USA's historic transition from old to new power plants and from polluting to cleaner power generation takes many forms more than modernizing coal plants, switching to natural gas, or building wind and solar farms.
The York, Pennsylvania based Voith Hydro is installing for generation owners an impressive 422 megawatts of new hydro power production just in Pennsylvania and Ohio. That will be a lot of power, approaching the equivalent of a small nuclear unit, in a relatively small area.
In addition to the upgrade in Pennsylvania of PPL's Holtwood hydro facility on the Susquehanna River from 108 to 230 megawatts, Voith manufactured turbines to provide 300 megawatts of new hydro power for American Municipal Power (AMP) at 4 hydro projects on the Ohio River. www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2012/01/hydropower-takes-center-stage-for-amp. Voith is being paid $420 million by AMP to supply the turbines.
Fully installed, each megawatt of the new hydro generation will cost about $5 million, which is more than wind or solar today. AMP, however, expects the hydro projects to operate at between 55% to 60% capacity factors, levels that are much higher than wind or solar farms. Also, hydro production is more predictable than wind or solar typically can be.
The principal cost advantage for these hydro projects remains zero fuel costs and low daily operating costs for their very long useful lifes. The absence of a fuel cost means that AMP will have long-term, stable power costs from these facilities.
The four new AMP hydro projects are being installed at existing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers locks and dams. Those dams and locks do impact the river. Hydro is not perfect. Yet, the power produced by these hydro projects will have zero air pollution, will not withdraw water from the rivers, will not heat water, or have dirty water that must be safely discharged. Those are big environmental advantages compared to other forms of power production.
Hydro power used to provide 40% of America's power. Those days are gone. But new hydro is part of America's on-going electric generation makeover.