Hydroelectric power is the largest source of renewable electricity in the United States, producing about 6.3% of the nation's total electricity throughout the last decade. Pennsylvania has 892 megawatts of conventional hydropower and 1,583 megawatts of pumped storage hydropower capacity and hundreds of people employed in the traditional hydro-electric field.
Can Hydroelectric Power Work for My Business?
If your business has a man-made lake or pond, a stream on the property, or generates your own flow of water via a discharge to a stream or river, you may be able to use that to generate power for your facility via what is referred to as low-impact hydro or microhydro. For larger scale hydro, there are a number of agencies – both state and federal – that require permits, and these resources take years to move through that process. On the other hand, a microhydro project can be up and running within a year.
The US DOE has a great introduction to microhydro along with a planning guide on their site. For any smaller facility, DOE's "Planning for Home Renewable Energy Systems" is a helpful guide as you start your project.
You can see on the DOE's site that technology advancements in hydroelectric generation have made it possible to place small turbines into channels, conduits and pipelines and changes in 2013 to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's permitting process have made it easier to install hydro into small streams – including those from man-made ponds and lakes.
Placing any obstruction, such as a microhydro turbine, into the waters of the Commonwealth requires contacting your local DEP office for possible permits. All streams, lakes, rivers and ponds in Pennsylvania - even those on private property - meet the definition of a water of the Commonwealth under the Cleans Streams Law of 1937.