The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) owns and manages more than 350 dams. The DCR recognized that the potential for hydroelectric generation at these dams might provide additional value in the form of potential revenue for the DCR and Commonwealth, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions, and sustainable power for Commonwealth communities.


GZA was engaged by the DCR to perform a screening-level assessment of hydropower generation potential at each of its dams. This assessment was meant to be used as an initial evaluation tool to identify those dams where a significant amount of hydropower potential exists and thereby focus on the dams where development might be most viable.

GZA utilized information contained in the DCR’s dam safety database, as well as the National Inventory of Dams, and GZA’s own extensive knowledge of the dams of Massachusetts, to develop information regarding the physical characteristics at each dam pertinent to hydropower generation. GZA then accessed USGS historic streamflow gage data to create proxy flow duration curves at each of the dam sites. Based on this data, GZA estimated the power (kW) and average annual energy (kWh) production potential at each of the dams in the DCR’s inventory. GZA identified those dams where further investigation of hydropower generation presently made sense, and those which might be examined in the future.


Based on the screening analysis, GZA is assisting DCR with more detailed evaluations of hydropower potential at certain dams and with preparing applications for FERC preliminary permits for 20 of the dams. Generation of hydropower at DCR dams could be a source of revenue for the state and an example of good environmental stewardship.