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Hydro Power: Possibilities & Problems

Started by RE, Apr 05, 2024, 01:15 AM

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The oldest major form of renewable electricity proction is Hydroelectricity.  The Hoover Dam, Niagara Falls and the Tenesee Valley Authority all still stand today with massive Dams producing gigawatts of carbon free electric power year in and year out.  Even so, they have environmental costs and are dependent of the climate to keep providing sufficient rainfall to fill the reservoirs behind the dams.

Lake Mead water level was dropping steadily for a decade, coming just a few feet short of reaching dead pool level, where the water would be too low to generate any power at all.  Just recently in the last couple of years, atmospheric rivers hitting the west coast have dropped record rainfalls, somewhat replenishing the dangerously low water supply.

Most of the really good sites where dams can be built to create reservoirs with enough volume and altitude drop  to run big turbines have already had hydro plants built.  The one place in the FSoA that hasn't happened yet is Alaska, and the fight is now on to build a big dam on the Susitna river.  Supplies of natural gas for heat and electricity are running out in Prince William Sound, and piping NG down from the North Slope would require a whole new pipeline to be built.  Besides, that still burns carbon.

Nevertheless, most of the opposition to the dam comes from environmentalists and native residents who still live by subsistence fishing of the salmon that spawn each year in the lakes that feed the river systems we have.  Tourism companies dependent on  hunting and fishing also mostly oppose it.

For myself, I have mixed feelings about it.  We clearly need some new source of electricity if we are to continue living the industrial lifestyle up here.  Of the 3 alternatives, building a nuke plant, bringing NG down from the slope or building a dam, Door #3 seems the best.  But can it really be done without completely crashing our salmon runs, which are already in danger?  How much time will it buy us?

The author of this article thinks it can be.  Whether they can findthe money to finance it and build it is another question.

OPINION: Reimagining the Susitna-Watana hydropower project