Approximately 2,358 hydroelectric power plants were operating in the U.S. as of December 31, 1996. Conventional hydroelectric plants provided 74,800 megawatts of generating capacity. Pumped storage projects provided an additional 8,400 megawatts of capacity.
Ownership of this hydroelectric generating capacity is divided as follows:
- 44 percent is federally owned;
- 35 percent is privately owned; and
- 21 percent non-federal publicly owned (for example irrigation districts, cities, and water districts).
The Commission has no authority over any of the federally owned hydroelectric projects. However, it regulates about 96 percent of the privately and publicly (non-federal) owned projects. Of this total, there are 1,016 licenses and 617 exemptions.
FERC-regulated hydroelectric projects are found in all states except for Delaware, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Hawaii. The leading states in hydroelectric power generation are Washington, California, and Oregon.
Many of the FERC regulated hydroelectric projects are under 100 megawatts. However, the largest privately owned conventional hydropower project in the U.S. is the 512-megawatt Conowingo Project on the Susquehanna River near Conowingo, Maryland. The Susquehanna Power Company and Philadelphia Electric Company have operated the project over 50 years.
The largest operating non-federal, publicly owned conventional hydroelectric plant is the 2,515.5-megawatt power plant operated by the New York Power Authority at Niagara Falls, New York. The largest conventional hydroelectric project owned by the federal government is the Grand Coulee project on the Columbia River in north central Washington with a capacity of 6,180 megawatts.