Monday, October 29, 2012

The pros and cons of using hydropower

Like with any other energy source, whether renewable or not, using hydropower has some benefits as well as some drawbacks, but before explaining more about the pros and cons let us first define hydropower.

Hydropower is also referred to as water power, so the simplest way to define hydropower would be to say that „hydropower is the energy of the moving water“.

The pros of using hydropower are:

1)      Hydropower is environmentally friendlier source of energy in comparison to fossil fuels. This means that using hydropower instead of fossil fuels leads in most cases to positive environmental impact.

2)      Hydropower is very reliable and stable source of energy.  Hydropower isn't intermittent energy source like solar and wind are, and dams once completed, are able to produce electricity at stable rate. What this also means is that in times when demand is not that high it is easy to stop hydroelectric power plants to produce electricity, and "plug it in" once again in times when demand increases as water can be easily saved for future use.

3)      High efficiency. Once dams are built they are among the most efficient energy sources. Today's hydroelectric power plants have an efficiency of approximately 90%, meaning that only small amount of energy gets wasted in the process of generating electricity.

4)      Low operational and maintenance costs once dams are built.

5)      Dams offer variety of other economic benefits. The lake that forms behind the dam can be also used for irrigation, recreational tourism in form of water sports, fishing, swimming, boating, as well as some other recreational benefits.

6)      No waste disposal issue like this is the case nuclear and fossil fuel fired power plants.

Building dam can provide many different economic benefits.

The cons of using hydropower are:

1)      Building large hydroelectric power plants can lead to major environmental damage if not done properly as this was the case with Chinese Three Gorges Dam and U.S. Hoover Dam. Large dams can not only disrupt the natural flow of rivers but can also cause earthquakes, erosion, landslides and serious geological damage. Sometimes, it can even lead to major flooding, as this was the case with the building of Three Gorges Dam that displaced around 1.24 million people due to serious flooding.

2)      High upfront costs, especially when building large hydroelectric power plants. What this means is that developers have to wait for at least few decades before being able to return their initial investment.

3)      The negative impact of droughts. In time of drought, hydroelectric power plants aren't able to produce electricity because there isn't enough water.


Anonymous,  May 16, 2014 at 11:23 AM  

Thanks a bunch. Very helpful article.

Anonymous,  May 20, 2014 at 3:21 PM  

Very helpful.