September 21, 2022

Small Hydropower Interconnections: Small Hydropower in the United States


Small hydropower projects, which we define as generators below 20 MW in capacity have been the predominant source of hydropower growth over the past decade and create the most cost-effective and environmentally permissible avenues for new hydropower installation in the United States (DOE 2016; Johnson et al. 2018). Small hydropower developers across the United States have found that interconnecting these projects with the grid can be challenging due to unexpected costs and schedule overruns. Understanding the interconnection challenges and improving the process may allow more small hydropower projects to be successful. Noting these challenges, the U.S. Department of Energy Water Power Technologies Office enlisted Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to investigate the small hydropower interconnection landscape across the United States. To begin to analyze the existing interconnection processes and challenges facing small hydropower, the state of small hydropower development in the U.S. must first be described to understand the characteristics of the industry. The first in a series, this paper presents the state of small hydropower projects in the U.S. to describe their type, location, and size based on data extracted from the HydroSource database (ORNL 2020). The following papers in the series will detail the variety of state interconnection processes to connect power generators with the grid (“Small Hydropower Interconnections: State Interconnection Processes”), analyze these interconnection processes (“Small Hydropower Interconnections: Analysis of Interconnection Processes”), and present best practices in interconnection processes (“Small Hydropower Interconnections: Best Practices”) that will help overcome barriers to future small hydropower development.

Published: September 21, 2022


Douville T.C., M. Severy, L.T. Wall, and K. Mongird. 2022. Small Hydropower Interconnections: Small Hydropower in the United States Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.