Despite what many people believe, oil is not an infinite resource nor is it a renewable resource. As oil reserves dwindle and the price of it continues to rise, governments around the world are encouraging businesses and homeowners to increase their use of renewable energy sources.
Solar and wind energy use is increasing because it is becoming cheaper to buy the equipment for solar and wind power systems. In addition, businesses and homeowners can take advantage of tax incentives to install and use renewable energy systems.
While solar and wind power systems are the most prominent renewable energy systems in use, they are not the only type that can be used to produce energy for businesses or homes. Other types of renewable energy sources include geothermal energy, biomass and hydropower. Often times, where a business or home is geographically located will influence what time of renewable energy is available.
What is Hydropower?
Hydropower is the use of flowing water to move turbines in order to produce electricity. Historically, hydropower has been used in many forms for commerce and for home needs. The simplest form of hydropower is the watermill, which has been used for thousands of years to mill grains into flour, to cut lumber, for use in textile production and to grind metal.
Modern hydropower provides 20% of the world’s energy. It generally isn’t used to produce power for individual homes, unless houses are close to water source like a running river or a waterfall. One of the largest hydropower sources is Niagara Falls in Canada that helps to produce electricity at night, while being a tourist attraction by day.
The Positive Aspects of Using Hydropower
1. Although hydropower does have an impact on the environment, it is to a lesser degree than fossil fuels like oil or coal. The use of hydroelectric power does not produce lead to polluting the environment like oil or coal burning energy plants do. In addition, there is no negative environmental impact on the water sources used in to produce electricity.
2. Hydropower is a stable energy source because it is ongoing, which makes it very reliable. After dams are completed, hydropower produces electricity at a stable rate. Solar and Wind power isn’t as stable because cloudy days, especially in the winter, can interfere with the production of energy using solar power. Also, not everyday is going to be windy enough to produce enough energy to run a home or business.
3. After dams have been built for producing hydropower, the maintenance and operational costs are lower than other energy plants. Hydropower has a higher efficiency rate than other power plants. Modern hydropower plants waste very little energy because they have an efficiency rate of up to 90% for producing electricity.
4. Along for being used for hydropower, the construction of dams allow for other uses of the resource. The water that is contained by the dam can be used for boating, irrigation for farms, swimming, fishing and many other purposes. Also, producing electricity through hydropower doesn’t produce waste that needs to be disposed of like the waste produced by fossil fuels or nuclear power plants.
The Negatives Aspects of Using Hydropower
1.Dams that are built for the purpose of producing hydropower can have a huge negative impact on the environment. They can flood hundreds of acres of land, they disrupt the natural flow of rivers and they can lead to earthquakes, land erosion as well as landslides. For example, when the Chinese Three Gorges Dam was built, over 1.2 million people had to be relocated due to major flooding associated with the dam’s construction.
2. In addition, damming rivers can destroy wildlife habitats, making them find new lands on which to live. This can cause wildlife to die from starvation or by having to fight predators for the land they are trying to settle.
3. During a severe drought, the water table can be lowered enough that the dam cannot produce electricity. For homes and businesses that rely on electricity produced by hydropower, they may not be able to continue to keep their businesses open and homes may not have other sources of electricity available to them.
4. The construction of dams necessary for producing hydropower is very expensive, especially when a large dam is built. This means that companies that are behind the hydropower will have to wait several years to see a return on their investment, if they ever do.
Hydropower isn’t used for individual energy production like solar, wind or geothermal is, but it a renewal energy resource that provides electricity for thousands, if not millions, of homes and businesses. Although there is a huge impact on the surround environment when dams for hydropower plants are built, there are too many advantages to using hydropower to ignore. Hydropower is a good source for clean, efficiently produced energy.