Flowing water—in Hawaii’s streams, rivers, and irrigation ditches—can be used to generate electricity. Hydroelectric facilities were among the first power plants in the islands, dating back to the late 1800s.
Hawaii uses what are known as “run-of-the-river” hydro plants. Some water is diverted out of a running stream and piped to the power house which contains the hydroelectric turbine-generator. After spinning the turbine, the water is returned to the stream.
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) National Hydropower Asset Assessment Program (NHAAP) is an integrated energy, water, and ecosystem research effort for sustainable hydroelectricity generation and water management. ORNL’s partners include state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, technology and resource developers, utilities, and researchers.
According to a 2013 study by ORNL, there is potential to develop approximately 145 MW of new hydroelectric power in Hawaii. This estimate is based on information in some 56 feasibility studies and reports dated from 1979-2010. Assessment References (PDF)
For additional information:
- Hawaii State Energy Office Publications (Hydro/Ocean tab)
- U.S. Department of Energy Water Power Program
- USGS Water Science School
For more information on Hawaii’s energy sector and progress in the areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean transportation, download the 2020 Hawaii’s Energy Facts & Figures (PDF).
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