Hydropower: A Longtime Power Source

Did you know that about 7 percent of the electricity generated each year in the United States comes from water? Hydroelectric generators, among the oldest power generators in the country, are responsible for an estimated 80 gigawatts of electric capacity.

Half of that capacity is located in just three states: Washington, California and Oregon. Four states — Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Vermont — depend on hydroelectricity facilities for at least half of their in-state, utility-scale generating capacity. In Colorado, there are at least 60 operating hydropower facilities with a combined installed capacity of 1,150 megawatts.

Colorado law doesn’t define large-scale hydropower as a renewable resource, but it does encourage small hydroelectric projects. Several of those were added recently by electric cooperatives, including a new project near Meeker. This 180-kilowatt project uses water from the Miller Creek Ditch in Rio Blanco County to generate electricity for White River Electric Association, the local electric cooperative.