Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Millions of people oppose hydropower in Vietnam

Hydropower can sometimes lead to significant environmental damage, and this is why an entire construction and studies have to be done extremely carefully in order to minimize negative environmental impact as much as possible.

In Vietnam, for instance, many residents have been complaining about the An Khe – Kanak Hydropower Plant,right from the monment it began to operate in 2005 because of the frequent floods and droughts caused by the plant.

There were some serious complaints such as discharging without warning a huge volume of water that washed away crops and even inundating many houses in the An Khe town causing total damage measured in billions.

These previous bad experiences are putting dark light on many of new hydro projects in the country, including the construction of  The Vinh Son 2 hydropower plant in the Kon Chu Rang Nature Reserve.

This $45 million project with the capacity of 80 MW is receiving plenty of critics. Many fear that this dam, which is planned in a primitive forest with invaluable animal and plant species could inundate 265 hectares of primitive forest in the nature reserve and dry out 10km of the Say Stream in the dry season, leading to massive environmental damage.

On the other hand, the Vinh Son – Song Hinh Hydropower JSC claim that the dam would not cause any significant damage,  stating the damage of just 16 hectares of forest, including nine hectares of land and seven hectares of stream.

In any case, the government should look into reports from both sides before approving another hydropower project in the country. 

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Pumped hydro energy storage has excellent potential in EU

Pumped hydro energy storage refers to a type of energy storage which uses electric power systems for load balancing. The operating principle is very easy: in periods of low electrical demand, excess generation capacity is used to pump water into the higher reservoir, and in periods with higher demand, water is released back into the lower reservoir through a turbine, generating electricity.

The latest study conducted by the eStorage Project, a European Commission-funded consortium of major players in Europe’s electric power sector, revealed that there is an immense potential of usable pumped hydro energy in EU.

It has been estimated that there is 2,291GWh of development-ready sites with existing reservoirs for new pumped hydro energy storage plants in Europe, with half of them being in Southern Norway. Other notable sites include the Alps accounting for 303GWh, and the Pyrenees with 118GWh.

The total estimated number is seven times the current installed capacity of pumped hydro energy storage in Europe so this is certainly a valuable data for many EU countries to think about.

Unlike many other energy storage technologies pumped hydro energy storage plants are cost-effective solution because they apply the simple principle of transferring water between two reservoirs at different elevations as already stated above.

Improved energy storage together with global renewable energy development are the two foundations on which future global energy supply should be built if we really want to step away from fossil fuels and ensure energy security of the entire world in years to come.

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

The environmental impact of hydropower in the Amazon basin

Amazon basin certainly has plenty to offer in terms of hydropower capacity but at what costs? There are many large hydropower projects already in the place in this area such as Guri dam in Venezuela, which has a total output of 10,325 megawatts (MW).

Brazil is currently constructing even larger hydroelectric power plant, the Belo Monte dam, which once fully operation will have a total output of 11,233 MW. Power hungry countries are looking for renewable energy options to satisfy growing demand, and hydropower is often regarded as the best option for this area.

Energetically speaking perhaps, but environmentaly speaking no, at least this is what the scientists warn. Professor Carols Peres, an environmental scientist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich warns that rapid hydropower expansion in Amazon basin "will result in huge changes to these Amazonian rivers by obstructing movement of aquatic fauna both upstream and downstream, by submerging rapids under huge lakes, by flooding adjacent forests and by creating forest islands that cannot sustain viable animal and plant populations and that these changes to the habitat will also be followed by indirect effects on the region's fauna and flora because the influx of people and money attracted by cheap hydropower are expected to result in higher deforestation rates in the areas affected by dams."

Many endemic species that are protected by law could experience decline in population, and we are talking here about hundreds of unique species.

Environmental and energy needs very rarely go hand in hand, and even "more renewable energy and less fossil fuels idea" doesn't do justice in all cases as renewable energy sources can also in some cases lead to major environmental damage.

Brazil, Venezuela and many other countries turn to large hydropower projects to satisfy ever-growing power demand. Brazil, for instance, has already laid plans to build 16 dams larger than 30 MW.

Some analysts would say that hydro remains Brazil's best energy option but Brazil should take into account the probable level of environmental damage caused by huge dams and perhaps turn its focus to other possible solutions such as improving energy efficiency of existing infrastructure as well as tapping other renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Is hydropower the right solution for Massachusetts?

Every U.S. state is contemplating its renewable energy future. The demand for more energy continues to grow, and power hungry states are looking for new options on the horizontal, preferably in form of renewable energy sources.

Massachusetts is currently thinking about employing hydropower from Canada. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposal to authorize long-term contracts between utilities and hydropower producers could be one of those decisions that will shape energy future of this region for foreseeable future.

However, there is still no clear plan on how to tap on vast Canadian hydropower resources. The most interesting plans that are waiting final approval include the $1.4 billion Northern Pass project, with the proposed capacity of 1,090 megawatts Hydro-Quebec power coming through New Hampshire into southern New England and a 1,000-megawatt transmission line beneath Lake Champlain in Vermont.

If these plans go through, the question remains will this stall the further development of domestic renewable energy sources, and will this lead to environmental damage by disrupting the water quality in rivers, and thus harm the river ecosystems.

Developing domestic renewable energy industry is certainly the way to go, but until this industry full develops, states have to look for other options. In Massachusetts' case this means that without a hydropower infusion it will be almost impossible to meet its 2020 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels.

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Is hydropower the right energy solution for Africa?

Ensuring clean and stable energy supply in Africa is certainly one if the most demanding labors of Hercules but nonetheless a thing that must be done to ensure future prosperity of the Black Continent. Is hydropower really the right solution for Africa?

Africa has tremendous hydropower potential with the latest reports claiming that only 7 percent of Africa’s hydropower potential is currently being harnessed, meaning that there is certainly plenty of room for further development on many of African rivers.

Hydropower is connected with high efficiency and low emissions, and is usually very reliable source. Why usually? Because of drought issue, and where else to look for drought issue than in Africa.

Recent African droughts are crippling energy supply in much of the continent. The worst part in the whole story is that future climate change scenarios predict even more droughts, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

Finding the right energy solution for Africa does not only mean finding cheap, clean energy solution, it also means finding reliable source of energy, and if droughts continue for years to come, hydropower, despite its big potential, is not the solution Africa's been craving for.

The efficiency of hydroelectric dams is heavily dependent on consistent rainfall meaning that one severe drought can easily heavily disrupt energy supply for many African states. In October, for instance, due to heavy droughts, Tanzania produced only 1/8 of normal electricity generated from hydropower.

Thus, solar power might be the better solution for Africa. Africa's sun needs to be harnessed and turned into electricity. Africa's solar power potential is enormous and dwarfs that of hydropower. Hydropower, though proven technology, might not be the right solution for Africa due to frequent drought periods that are likely to become even bigger issue in years to come.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Hydroelectric plant proposed at Esopus Creek

Esopus Creek is a 65.4 mile long tributary of the Hudson River, and the potential site of the new hydropower project. Gravity Renewables out of Boulder, Colorado, a Colorado based renewable energy company, has already asked the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a permit to allow it to study turning the dam into potential hydropower project with the capacity of 5,300 megawatt-hours of energy a year.

If constructed, this hydroelectric power plant could provide enough power for more than 700 average American households. However, the company announced that Diamond Mills Dam on the Esopus Creek is only one of the several interesting sites they are currently looking at.

This dam has been already looked at before as an interesting place to harness hydropower. Five years ago, the American Hydro Power company gave figures to FERC claiming it could generate 2,113 megawatt hours a year at the site at a cost of $3.5 million.

The history doesn't give too much optimism because the U.S. Department of Interior wrote back then that the project "could have an adverse impact on existing fish and wildlife resources and their habitats".

This dam was constructed in 1929 and is currently owned by Leading Edge Developers LLC. Whether it could be turned out in the hydroelectric power plant it still remains to be seen.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Hydropower to play major role in future electricity demand

Hydropower is very efficient source of renewable energy. The kinetic energy of moving water generates electricity. The first commercial hydroelectric power plant was built at Niagara Falls way back in 1879.

The demand for both small and big hydropower projects is expected to grow significantly in the next five years, until the 2020. Small hydro construction is currently more popular because of the lower costs, simpler design and easier construction but this doesn't mean that there won't be large hydro projects in the upcoming years.

Administration and regulatory framework, prior approval from governments, and high costs are stumbling blocks surrounding large hydro projects. Latest example comes from Guyana where government has cancelled plan to build large hydro project from the Amaila Falls by explaining that the project is too expensive.

However, the world population is constantly growing which will lead to higher electricity demand in many countries. International Atomic Energy Agency claims that the global demand for electricity is expected to double between 2002 and 2030, with 4,259 TWh of electricity will be generated through hydropower plants.

In 2014, the hydropower generated 3,982 TW of electricity. It has been estimated that global installed hydropower capacity will increase from 1,056 GW in 2014 to 1,446 GW by 2019.

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