Yesterday I talked about the basic set up of the hydroelectric powering and gathering system and the future of it. Today I will be talking about the pros and cons of said system.
Pros: Hydropower relies on the water cycle, which is driven by the sun, thus it’s a renewable power source.
Hydropower is generally available as needed; engineers can control the flow of water through the turbines to produce electricity on demand. It produces 7 percent of U.S. energy and 19 percent of world energy.
Hydropower plants provide benefits in addition to clean electricity. Impoundment hydropower creates reservoirs that offer a variety of recreational opportunities, notably fishing, swimming, and boating. Most hydropower installations are required to provide some public access to the reservoir to allow the public to take advantage of these opportunities. Other benefits may include water supply and flood control.
A hydropower project is suggested to have a life of between fifty and one hundred years, and they can quite easily be updated to meet new technological developments. This is also an environmental benefit as there is no need to create additional impacts constructing new projects each time a scientific breakthrough occurs.
Cons: Hydropower can impact water quality and flow. Hydropower plants can cause low dissolved oxygen levels in the water, a problem that is harmful to riparian (riverbank) habitats and is addressed using various aeration techniques, which oxygenate the water. Maintaining minimum flows of water downstream of a hydropower installation is also critical for the survival of riparian habitats.
Hydropower plants can be impacted by drought. When water is not available, the hydropower plants can’t produce electricity.
Fish populations can be impacted if fish cannot migrate upstream past impoundment dams to spawning grounds or if they cannot migrate downstream to the ocean, but upstream fish passage can be aided using fish ladders or elevators, or by trapping and hauling the fish upstream by truck. (Both those option sound horrible and traumatizing. And the truck thing sounds a pain in the butt. No one is going to want to round a bunch of smelly fish and take them upstream. Besides, there is so many. How are they supposed to get them all?) Downstream fish passage is aided by diverting fish from turbine intakes using screens or racks or even underwater lights and sounds, and by maintaining a minimum spill flow past the turbine.
New hydropower facilities impact the local environment and may compete with other uses for the land. Those alternative uses may be more highly valued than electricity generation. Local cultures and historical sites may be impinged upon. Some older hydropower facilities may have historic value, so renovations of these facilities must also be sensitive to such preservation concerns and to impacts on plant and animal life. http://www.envirothonpa.org/documents/19bHydropowerAdvantagesandDisadvantages.pdf
Hydropower involves fewer energy losses during the generation process. In comparison, the transformation of fossil fuels, such as oil, natural gas and coal, usually leads to substantial losses in the form of heat. For example, when coal is burned to generate power, two-thirds of its energy is wasted. Water, on the other hand, is used to the last drop as it pushes against the blades of a power station turbine.
Hydropower requires vast quantities of water. The consequences of this are that large quantities are stored and released to generate the energy required. In some instances, entire towns and communities are flooded to create massive scale dams. This not only has negative impacts upon the physical environment, but also significant social impacts. Families can lose their ancestral homes and ancient communities can be torn apart.
Due to alterations in the physical environment as a result of flooding, significant amounts of natural vegetation begin to decompose. This in itself produces greenhouse gas emissions.
A well-known impact is that of the effects upon fish migration and reproduction. Although, in some instances, runs are built to allow fish to continue their breeding cycle.