More than 1/5 of the world’s energy is currently created through the use of hydroelectricity. This means that electrical currents are being generated by water power and then distributed through the power grid. Outside of solar energy, hydroelectricity is the most renewable resource that is available to us right now. With it being environmentally friendly too, there are definitely some advantages that this technology can offer. As with every subject, however, there are also some disadvantages involves in the creation of hydroelectricity.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of developing hydroelectric energy in a little more detail.
The Pros of Hydroelectricity
1. Hydroelectricity is completely renewable.
Unless gravity stops affecting the Earth or we completely run out of water, then we will always have hydroelectric power available to us. Because it is renewable, we cannot completely consume it. Even though it generally requires a suitable reservoir of water to generate new electrical power, there are many places in the world today that have not been touched yet simply because they are not currently financially profitable.
2. Hydroelectricity is completely green.
Generating hydroelectricity has no environmental impact that is negative. The only pollution that the development of hydroelectricity generates is through the construction of the large power plants that are necessary to create power in the first place. Once the power plant goes live, the pollution levels stop immediately.
3. Hydroelectricity is very reliable.
Power that is produced by hydroelectricity is incredibly stable. There are no fluctuations in the amount of electrical power that is being generated by the plants unless a different output is specifically desired. It is so reliable, in fact, that many countries which have access to a large resource of water that can be used for hydropower will use it as their base energy source. The bottom line is this: if there is water available in the magazines of the power plant, then electricity can be generated.
4. Hydroelectricity is extremely flexible.
It doesn’t take a lot of work to change the output of a hydropower plant. All that needs to be done is to make an adjustment to the flow of water. If you want less electricity, then you restrict the flow of water. This allows for less energy waste because it is easier to meet the varying demands of the general public who is using the electrical power.
The Cons of Hydroelectricity
1. The creation of hydroelectricity generally changes the environment.
Although hydroelectric power is green by nature, the surrounding areas where the power is being generated are generally modified to meet those needs. A classic example of this is the building of a dam on a river to create a reservoir. Water flows that are natural for generations are suddenly changed and then the power grid is constructed around the hydropower plant to distribute the electricity. This may also have an impact on the surrounding wildlife that call the area their home.
2. Hydroelectricity is an expensive proposition.
The building of any new power plant is not going to be cheap. The advantage of hydropower is that once the plant becomes operational, it doesn’t generally need a lot of workers. Maintenance costs are usually lower with hydroelectricity than any other form of power generation that occurs on a mass scale.
3. The price of electricity is directly tied to the availability of water.
If drought were to hit a region that was reliant on hydroelectricity for its power needs, then not only could the level of hydropower be critically lowered, it could also affect the energy prices for the entire region.
4. The future availability of more hydroelectricity is in doubt.
There are currently about 30 hydroelectric plants that are being constructed right now. Only one of these projects was started within the last few years. This means that we are using up the suitable reservoirs that are available for us to create hydroelectric power. We can then either create new reservoirs at an added expense… or we are going to be forced to look at alternative power methods.
Hydroelectricity Is Very Safe When It Is Producing
The one distinct advantage of hydroelectricity, whether you are for the use of it or against the use of it, is that it is completely safe to use. The only fuel that is involved in the creation of electricity is water. There is no nuclear energy required and no fossil fuels are consumed beyond those that are use to create the power plant in the first place. The only threat that hydroelectricity provides is through power that is generated by a major dam.
If a dam were to break and there was a large reservoir of water behind it, the flooding devastation could be immense. When compared to other power plant tragedies, however, even the threat of extensive flooding is much safer in comparison to the threat of a nuclear meltdown.
On the other side of the equation are the consequences that occur to wildlife when hydroelectricity is emphasized in a region. The natural flow of fish habitats can be adversely affected because of water level changes or differences in water velocity. There may be fewer shelter opportunities or less access to food, which would change the fish population levels in a negative way. For animals that are higher up in the food chain and reliant on the fish, this would then create lower levels of their population in the area too.
When river systems are regulated appropriately, many of the habitat destruction concerns people have can be alleviated. It still doesn’t change the fact that reservoirs which build up in water and change the topography of a region can create destruction. The question we must answer is this: is the need to generate more electricity more important than the need to protect the local wildlife population? To answer that question, we must weigh all of the pros and cons that are available in the subject of hydroelectricity.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.