Hydroelectric energy is the most commonly used renewable energy source in the world. According to the 2019 Hydropower Status Report, hydroelectricity gave us a whopping 21.8 GW of energy and grew by 9% over the year.
While hydroelectric energy provides the world with clean energy, there are some problems with it. Today, we will examine the advantages and disadvantages of hydropower.
Advantages of Hydroelectric Energy
Hydropower is completely renewable, which means it will never run out unless the water stops flowing. As a result, hydro plants are built to last. In some cases, equipment that was built to last 25 years is still operational after double the amount of time has passed.
The creation of hydroelectricity does not release emissions into the atmosphere. This is, of course, the biggest appeal of any renewable energy source.
Hydropower is, by far, the most reliable renewable energy available in the world. Unlike when the sun goes down or when the wind dies down, water usually has a constant and steady flow 24/7.
Since hydropower is so reliable, hydro plants can actually adjust the flow of water. This allows the plant to produce more energy when it is required or reduce the energy output when it is not needed. This is something that no other renewable energy source can do.
Lakes can be used for recreational purposes and can even help draw in tourists. Look no further than Lake Mead. It was created as a result of the Hoover dam and brought in over 7.5 million visitors in 2018. This can give nearby towns a huge boost economically.
Faster Developed Land
Since hydro dams can only be built in specific locations, they can help develop the land for nearby towns and cities. This is because it takes a lot of equipment to build a dam. To transport it, highways and roads must be built, which helps open new paths for rural towns.
Disadvantages of Hydroelectric Energy
Impact on Fish
To create a hydro plant, a running water source must be dammed. This prevents fish from reaching their breeding ground, which in turn affects any animal that relies on those fish for food.
As the water stops flowing, riverside habitats begin to disappear. This can even remove animals from accessing water.
Limited Plant Locations
While hydropower is renewable, there are limited places in the world that are suitable for plant construction. On top of this, some of these places are not close to major cities that could fully benefit from the energy.
Higher initial Costs
While no power plant is easy to build, hydro plants do require you to build a dam to stop running water. As a result, they cost more than similarly sized fossil fuel plants.
Although, they will not need to worry about purchasing fuel later on. So it does even out over the long-term.
Carbon and Methane Emissions
While the actual electricity generation in the plant does not produce emissions, there are emissions from the reservoirs they create. Plants that are at the bottom of a reservoir begin to decompose. And when plants die, they release large quantities of carbon and methane.
Susceptible to Droughts
While Hydropower is the most reliable renewable energy available, it is dependent on the amount of water in any given location. Thus, the performance of a hydro plant could be significantly affected by a drought. And as climate change continues to heat up or planet, this could become more common.
When dams are built at higher elevations, they pose a serious risk to any town nearby that is below it. While these dams are built very strong, there are still risks. The biggest dam failure in history is the Banqiao Dam failure. Due to excess rainfall from a typhoon, the dam collapsed. This resulted in the deaths of 171,000 people.
Hydro Is Still Growing
Hydro has been steadily growing as the world begins to ditch its reliance on fossil fuels for energy. It’s worth noting that there are many pros and cons of hydroelectric energy.
However, when you compare it to the threat of climate change, it is undoubtedly better than any fossil fuel plant. And with over 8,700 new hydro plants being planned in Europe, it is more important than ever to understand the negatives.