Good article. Hydro needs to be analyzed carefully on a site by site basis. Tropical dams are big methane producers. In general, dams should only be build for water resources, not energy, But if you build them for water, use the electricity too. Some mountainous regions like Iceland allot hydro without comprising and major ecosystems.
There is an obviously but overlooked energy alternative: hydrocarbons extracted from our wastes. 20-40% of our energy can come from our wastes and it’s cleaner an cheaper than dumping, and carbon negative if biochar is used.
Solar and wind are the cheapest energy available on the planet, and can provide 60-99% of the energy demand (not just electricity). Appropriate hydro is a good backup but waste to fuels is universal. Human create wastes.
Great read! Really well written and link supported article about a topic that demands exposure like this. I would like to thank you for researching this subject which is causing devastation in Balkans’ ecosystems and some of last remaining pistil natural habitats in Europe, with in some cases little researched but obvious biodiversity. In past couple of years in Serbia we’ve had a tremendous number of projects for mini hydro power plant (MHPP) construction, some also within protected areas. In most cases they are run-of-the-river type cascades, so the result is that entire rivers or streams go through pipes nearly most of its length. The fish passes are built but aren’t being used, with even cameras in place so they can divert water onto passes if the inspection came. I also think that the bank loans are the key for this MHPP boom in the Balkans, so EU lobbying with the banks to stop them from giving loans through commercial banks for such projects would be necessary to stop this increasing trend of nature destruction.
On methane. Vegetation can easily be removed before the valley is flooded.Lumber can be sold, topsoil can be transported to less fertile areas nearby.Fish ladders can be installed to allow migratory fish safe passage.Fish counters can also be installed and a breeding program initiated to complement wild populations. Fish friendly turbines that are more efficient can be installed. Large pools in the lake behind the dam can have O2 added.In short, it’s about accentuating the positives and eliminating the negatives.
Great and well researched article! However, I still think for sub Saharan Africa, hydro remains the best option! Oil and coal are dirtier or unavailable! Wind and solar are too expensive! You say their costs are falling, but by how much? When will they fall low enough to beat hydro? I also think the article exaggerates the impact of dams! Most dams are built just upstream of falls and rapids! There was a natural barrier in the river anyway! As someone else has said, the methane would equally have washed downstream and form in the sea! And if carefully studied, those impacts are easier to mitigate than the impacts from current commercially viable alternatives!
Having just driven through Albania in winter, from Greece, seeing the destructive force of the river and destruction of the arable flood- plain land, threat to communications and life itself, I hope the issue is resolved. Too much talk serves only to extend the misery of Europe’s only third-world country
Yes, hydro impoundments probably release more methane than previously thought. But how much of the source organic matter would have ended up further downstream in the river sedimentary system, or in the ocean, and proceeded to be methanogenic there anyway? To the extent that organic carbon is being added to the system by the impoundment, this could be ameliorated by removal of the vegetation (i.e. logging, producing a revenue stream) beforehand.
And to say hydro should not be classified as renewable is just absurd overreach. You could just as easily say wind turbines are not renewable because they have lifetime of 20-odd years. It just goes to show how the word ‘renewable’ is becoming so debased as to be little more than a meaningless brand name.
Thank you so much for this revealing article. In a few years, hydropower, one of the most environmentally destructive forms of energy production, will be an anachronism. When fuel cells and fusion become realities, the damage of these massive projects will remain. Like the U.S., where multinationals like Brookfield push for production tax and investment tax credits by redefining these projects as “renewables”, governments subsidize these destructive projects. Projects on small tributaries that would not be viable economically leave lasting damage to riverine environements.
Bah. This just adds to the confusion of comparing mountains of empirical fact, each opposing mountain with a few sob stories thrown atop like decorative strawberries. Here’s the deal: energy production encourages itself. Like the way the Long Island Expressway, indeed the entire Eisenhower Interstate system encouraged cars. More energy calls for more energy. Exponentially. You want to stop people destroying the planet? Stop them from breeding. Call up your friends with their oh-so-cool kayaks on your shiny new cell and tell them to stop breeding.
Appears to me that the only sane person on the planet was Ted Kaczynski – expect for that business with the bombs, of course.
Article was interesting & sad since, I did not know about the methane problem that went along with hydro power & about some of the other negatives…… I do know hydro has ruined fishing & eco systems in many places in the USA….. Many places have lost their salmon runs. A whole industry lost…. We now have far too many Dams in the USA … A good documentary on Netflix is “DAM NATION”. Their must be a better trade off…….
“My Story as Told by Water…”, by David James Duncan is a book that touched my heart and made me sad. I hadn’t realized how detrimental dams are to the ecology of rivers and how much of the Pacific Northwest’s salmon runs have been absolutely destroyed by dams.
Comments are closed.