As the world continues to grow and populations expand, the need for more energy becomes a primary point of emphasis. Unfortunately most of the forms of energy that are used around the world today come from fossil fuels. This means that there could be a direct impact on the environment in a number of ways just so the average person can heat their home and drive to work. There’s got to be a better way, right?
With hydroelectricity, there is the possibility of generating clean power once the generation facilities are completely constructed. It’s one of the most popular forms of renewable power that currently exists today and could be at least a partial solution to the demands that modern society has for power. By evaluating these pros and cons, each community can decide if the inclusion of hydroelectricity is right for them.
What Are the Pros of Hydroelectricity?
1. It is incredibly cheap.
The highest prices per kilowatt hour for new construction hydroelectricity is $0.08. Once a power plant goes live and the construction efforts have been completely paid off, power rates can be as low as $0.0035 per kilowatt hour. That’s a massive savings when compared to other forms of renewable energy.
2. There is a constant source of power.
Unlike wind systems or even solar systems, hydroelectricity is always being produced because water is always flowing. By incorporating power plants on rivers, streams, and other waterways, there will be the movement required to generate power so that demands can always be met.
3. It is a flexible source of power.
Many hydroelectricity plants have the ability to adapt to changing electrical needs. All they must do is release more water during high periods of electricity demand and fill up the reservoir being maintained during periods of low electricity use. Even on the hottest or coldest days of the year, almost every hydroelectricity plant can meet the demand because of this.
4. They add recreational opportunities.
Most hydroelectricity plants are based in a dam system on a moving body of water. This means that the reservoir behind the dam must build up for peak use periods and this creates a lake that local communities can use. Beaches, water sports, camping, swimming, and even fishing all become possible – and a potential source of new revenues.
5. Hydroelectricity plants are highly scalable.
Almost every power plant that generates electricity by water flow can be built with a small initial capacity and then be scalable to fit the ongoing needs of the community.
What Are the Cons of Hydroelectricity?
1. Drought conditions can greatly affect output – or eliminate it.
When there are low water levels that are brought on by an extended drought, then the result is a negative impact to the amount of electricity that a power plant is able to create. If the water dries up, then so does the ability to generate power.
2. It alters the natural movements of nature.
Although modern technology allows for hydroelectric plants to accommodate wildlife movement as best as possible, through the use of salmon runs or alternative migration paths, it isn’t a perfect system. It takes time for wildlife to adjust and this can create wildlife deaths. The filling of a reservoir inevitably destroys the habitats of certain animal species as well, no matter how careful the construction efforts might be.
3. They often have a high initial cost.
Although the ongoing maintenance costs of hydroelectric power are quite minimal, the initial costs of building a plant require a high level of capital. This can often create longer periods of debt that must be financed by a community, so the average taxpayer pays twice for the privilege of clean power: on their electrical bill and through the taxes they pay every year.
4. Animals aren’t the only creatures that need to relocate.
Once a dam is installed and the reservoir begins to fill up, there may be people that need to be relocated to new areas as well. This process often occurs during the capital phase of construction because their property must be purchased at a fair market value to accommodate the hydroelectric plant and accompanying reservoir. Being forced out of a home is never really a pleasant experience, so many households may opt to just leave the area and this creates a higher tax burden on the remaining population.
5. There are limited places for reservoir development.
Many nations have already begun to use up the prime locations for reservoir development that can sustain an ongoing hydroelectric plant. Only 1 out of the last 30 major power plant projects with a capacity of at least 2,000 MW has started within the last couple of years because of this. Other reservoirs are still possible, but because of ongoing drought conditions in the region, there just isn’t water to power the plant that stands by idle.
Is Hydroelectricity a Good Technology to Pursue?
Many communities are thinking about hydroelectricity as a viable option for clean power. If money reserves exist that can help to make the initial capital expenditures feasible, then the construction of a new plant may make sense. The reward is low-cost power in the future. All it would take is draining the cash reserve that is on-hand, often earmarked for a project such as this.
For communities that are in regions that are prone to drought, however, or for those who would need to finance much of the initial capital that would be required, the risks may outweigh the benefits. Customers may not be able to afford the taxation burden that would come from such a scenario. That may cause a portion of the population to leave and that would create deeper burdens for those that choose to remain.
By weighing the advantages and disadvantages of hydroelectricity, each community can see if there is an available reservoir that would work to provide local homes with cheap, clean power. Often the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, but that isn’t always the case. That’s why evaluating every pro and con is so important.