A new report from the U.S. Department of Energy suggests the country could dramatically expand its access to established renewable energy by upgrading some of its existing dams, according to Bloomberg.
The DOE examined more than 54,000 of the 80,000 non-generating dams around the country and found that the U.S. could add as much as 12 gigawatts of hydroelectric power, an increase of about 15 percent.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, hydroelectricity accounted for nearly 60 percent of all renewable energy capacity in the country in 2010, and slightly more than 60 percent of all generation. Though technologies like solar power and wind power have grown in recent years, hydroelectricity still remains a prominent source of power.
Expansion of hydroelectricity can be difficult since new dams require the formation of reservoirs and can have a substantial environmental impact. However, adapting existing flood-control dams to generate electricity as well could serve to cut costs while reducing the environmental impact.
In particular, the report identifies major rivers such as the Mississippi, Ohio, Alabama and Arkansas rivers as potential sources of significant renewable energy.