The Facts Behind Hydropower & HydroSource 

To further the potential benefits of the nation’s hydropower resources, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed and maintain a comprehensive water energy digital platform called HydroSource that informs key stakeholders of development and operational costs, environmental concerns and licensing requirements.

Hydropower accounts for nearly 7% of all electricity generated in the United States and provides quick-start capabilities during blackouts and the ability to store power for high-demand periods.

HydroSource provides updated information on hydropower facilities and infrastructure, models and visualizations for future development, and analytical tools to better understand how and where hydropower can be implemented throughout the US

“We created this digital platform to enable stakeholders, including hydropower developers and operators, non-governmental agencies and advocacy groups, and policy makers to make data-driven decisions,” said ORNL’s Debjani Singh. “We all want the same thing – to develop reliable, sustainable energy while protecting the environment.”



HydroSource is a comprehensive national water energy digital platform created by the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). It serves as a key steward in maintaining and disseminating authoritative hydropower data to key stakeholders across the United States. The resource consists of hydropower-related data sets, data models, visualizations, and analytics tools that support and enable hydropower research and development on topics of national interest. These topics include US hydropower market acceleration, deployment, resources characterization, environmental impact reduction, technology-to-market activities, and climate change impact assessment.

To aid in informing policy decisions, HydroSource is used by hydropower operators and developers; government agencies; decision makers across federal, state and local jurisdictions; nongovernmental organizations; academia; policy leaders; and the public. The digital platform increases transparency in hydropower projects and information, supports science-based analysis, enables robust research, fosters new project development, provides novel tools for data-driven environmental assessment, and informs strategic environmental permitting and mitigation.

Understanding the country’s existing hydropower fleet and potential hydropower resources is critical in supporting the broad US hydropower industry. The US hydropower fleet includes a mixture of federally and privately owned and operated facilities, some of which are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Sponsored by the Water Power Technologies Office, ORNL initiated the National Hydropower Asset Assessment Program in 2010 to integrate and improve upon the capabilities of diverse energy–water geospatial data to advance hydropower research and to address the most pressing US hydropower-related issues. The program was expanded into HydroSource in 2017.

The HydroSource platform is an ongoing effort by the US Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Water Power Technologies Office and ORNL toward improving the quality, functionality, dissemination, and sharing of detailed and scientific hydropower data.


HydroSource was developed using the Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) principles (Wilkinson et al. 2016) It enables data producers to publicly disseminate versions of their data and metadata in standardized formats with digital object identifiers and allows data users to search for and access the archived data and metadata.

The digital platform hosts multi-disciplinary science-based data with well-described attributes and metadata that meet domain-relevant community standards and aid in data discovery and reuse. It also provides centralized access to integrated and derived products to provide a singular source for flexible and user-friendly data that can be applied to address scenario-specific objectives.

Data include the following:

  • Existing Hydropower Assets (EHA) database — consists of comprehensive details on the locations and key characteristics of currently operating US hydropower plants
  • Hydropower Infrastructure — LAkes, Reservoirs, and RIvers (HILARRI) — database of links among major data sets of operational hydropower dams and power plants, and inland water bodies
  • US Non-Powered Dam Characteristics Inventory — contains identifiers, locations, and a wide variety of characteristics that describe US non-powered dams and their surroundings, including attributes related to the physical nature or design of a dam, environmental conditions, safety conditions, socioeconomic aspects, and hydropower development potential
  • New stream-reach development data set — identifies untapped US stream-reaches with high (greater than 1 MW) and low (less than 1 MW) energy potential with more than 100 reaches with at least 100 MW of potential capacity
  • Hydropower licensing timeline and cost database — consists of timeline dates, lengths, project characteristics, license characteristics, and costs of hydropower licensing and relicensing for 107 randomly selected hydropower projects.

The Existing Hydropower Assets database, resource assessments, and data from external sources can be used to analyze the past, present, and projected future of the hydropower industry and pumped storage development trends for the nation as reported in the Hydropower Market Report (Uría-Martínez et al., 2021).

Visualization tools include the following:

HydroSource also provides a suite of online tools and applications.

HydroSource also provides a suite of online tools and applications to increase awareness and development of hydropower capabilities across the United States.


Since its inception, HydroSource has served as a comprehensive data repository to inform hydropower infrastructure and policy decisions. HydroSource data have been used to inform policy decisions, identify future development opportunities, enable robust hydropower research, develop new tools for data-driven environmental assessment, and support strategic environmental permitting and mitigation. The content of HydroSource will continue to grow to support the sustainable development of national hydropower, which is a critical contributor to our clean, renewable future energy portfolio.

More Information

For more information, data, data use, maps, citation policy and resources visit

researchers Shih-Chieh Kao & Debjani Singh

Originally Posted by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

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