The use of renewable energy is growing, and there are definitely some pros and cons of hydroelectric energy. But what is hydroelectric power?
To generate electricity with water is a generally simple process. Water flows from an upstream area of a higher level to a downstream area of a lower level.
On its way down, the running water rotates turbines connected to a long shaft. The shaft is connected to a generator that supplies energy for homes and businesses.
But somehow, as the industry of renewable energy grows, some people still don’t know what it’s all about. If you want to figure out what the deal is with hydro energy, look no further.
Here are a few pros and cons of hydroelectric energy and how it shapes up in the global renewable energy field.
The apparent and most prominent reason why hydroelectric power is an attractive energy source is that it’s renewable. The water cycle ensures that we never run out of water. So there is a limitless supply of energy when using a hydroelectric process.
Hydroelectricity is also popular because it doesn’t directly contribute to climate change. Greenhouse gases are released when fossil fuels are burned. However, there is no need for fossil fuels with hydroelectric energy.
Hydropower is also considered a domestic energy source. This means that the residents of an area that has built a hydroelectric plant get to use its energy. However, hydroelectric power is limited to areas where the water flow can generate enough power, such as large, strong rivers.
For example, New Zealand produces about 60% of its power from hydroelectricity, with its first dam built in 1903! One company, Ecotricity, shows the rest of the world what it takes to supply ethical electricity, like hydro, wind, and solar power.
Though there are clearly many benefits of hydroelectric power, what are some of the cons?
Large dams can destroy wildlife habitats and disrupt the natural rhythm of life. They also deplete massive carbon sinks that prevent harmful carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.
Many fish species that rely on upstream and downstream travel are also negatively affected. Dams block their natural migratory patterns and prevent them from reproducing. Fish such as salmon, sturgeon, and trout must travel upstream to lay eggs.
Unfortunately, the cons for hydroelectric power don’t end there. Limited downstream water flow can also deprive habitats of naturally flowing water. Meanwhile, communities upstream of the dam are more prone to flooding.
The Pros and Cons of Hydroelectric Energy
Hydroelectricity is generated by moving water, so as long as the river is flowing, the water source is generating electricity. It can create energy almost immediately and is great for creating a steady supply of electricity.
However, there are some undeniably harmful implications for the environments where hydroelectric energy is harnessed.
Do you think the pros and cons of hydroelectric energy balance each other out, or does one outweigh the other? For more posts about how technology meets your life, check out some of our other articles!