Hydropower can’t help with the energy crisis

Preface. When fossil fuels are gone, there aren’t many ways to balance the unreliable, intermittent, and often absent for weeks at a time power from wind and solar.  Biofuels and burning biomass is one solution, it’s dispatchable and can kick in at any time to make up for lack of wind and solar, but using biomass as a power source is one of the most destructive ways to generate power as I explain in “Peak Soil” and probably has a negative return on energy invested.

So Plan B for renewable power would have to be hydropower.  That was the main proposal Stanford professor Mark Jacobson had to keep the electric grid stable and up and running.  But in 2017, a group of scientists pointed out that Jacobson’s proposal rested upon the assumption that we can increase the amount of power from U.S. hydroelectric dams 10-fold when, according to the Department of Energy and all major studies, the real potential is just 1% percent of that.  And since dams are so ecologically destructive, there would be a great deal of opposition to even building 1% of the dams Jacobson proposed.

Plus, most states don’t have hydropower. Ten states have 80% of hydropower, with Washington state a whopping 25% of hydro-electricity.

Hydropower isn’t always available.  A lot of water has to be held back to provide agriculture and cities with water, so there will be many times of the year when it can’t be released to keep the electric grid up.

And hydropower isn’t renewable, dams have a lifespan of 50 to 200 years.

Without all that additional hydroelectricity, the 100% renewables proposal falls apart. There is no Plan C because of all the shortcomings of battery technologies.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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  1. Ultimately dams silt up, usually within 25 to 200 years, so hydro-power is not a renewable source of power.
  2. Eventually the rebar in dams will rust and break apart the cement, causing the dam to fail (A Century from Now Concrete Will be Nothing But Rubble)
  3. We’ve already dammed up the best rivers. There are now more than 45,000 dams around the world, affecting more than half — 172 out of 292 — of the globe’s large river systems.  The largest are 1,000 feet high.
  4. Damming prevents salmon and other fish migration.
  5. We’ve built dams in more than half of the large river systems and have decreased the amount of sediment flowing to the world’s coasts by nearly 20%. This is causing long-term harm to the world’s river ecosystems and raising risks that many coastal areas — sometimes hundreds of miles from the dams — will be flooded soon because they are deprived of sediments that help offset soil erosion. The harmful effects of ebbing soil deposits will be accelerated by the rising sea levels caused by global warming, say the researchers. More than 37% of the world’s population, or over 2.1 billion people, live within 93 miles of a coast.
  6. Dams reduce biodiversity
  7. Dams create habitats more easily invaded by invasive plants, fish, snails, insects, and animals
  8. Dams can increase greenhouse gases as impounded water gets choked with rotting vegetation
  9. Dams, interbasin transfers, and water withdrawals for irrigation have fragmented 60% of the world’s rivers
  10. It can take years to build even a small run-of-river project.  Below are the permits/agencies AMP needed to build 4 run-of-river turbines in the Ohio River:

LIST OF PERMITS/APPROVAL/LICENSES/EVALUATIONS

  1. OPSB Certificate, Ohio Power Siting, Certificates for 50MW+ projects and T-line
  2. Preliminary Permit, FERC, Permit to prepare and submit a License App.
  3. License, FERC, Comprehensive energy project license
  4. NEPA, EPA, Compliance with statute on federal projects
  5. Section 404/10, Army Corps, Impacts to jurisdictional water
  6. Section 408, Army Corps, Permission to impair federal structure
  7. Section 401, OEPA, Impacts to wetlands/streams
  8. Water withdrawal registration, ODNR, Withdrawal of water
  9. NPDES, EPA/OEPA, Discharge of industrial water
  10. Stormwater Permit, OEPA, Manage site/construction stormwater
  11. Historic Preservervation Act, SHPO, Evaluation of cultural/historic resources
  12. Endangered Species Evaluation, ODNR/USF&W, Evaluation of endangered/threatened species
  13. License, FAA, Transmission Tower approval for aviation
  14. ODOT Permit, ODOT, Roadway considerations/crossings
  15. Flood Impact Approval, FEMA, To insure no impacts to flood waters

OTHER REQUIRED/POTENTIAL CONSULTING AGENCIES

  1. U.S Dept. of Agriculture-Forestry
  2. National Park Service
  3. U.S. Bureau of Land Management
  4. Federal Emergency Management Agency
  5. U.S. Geological Services
  6. U.S. Department of Commerce

OTHER REQUIREMENT Regional Transmission Organization Interconnection Process (more than 20 MW)–PJM or MISO in our region

References

Juan Pablo Orego.  River Killers: The False solution of Mega-dams. A chapter within 2012 “The Energy Reader: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth” by Tom Butler, eds et al.

Patrick McCully. 2001. Silenced Rivers: The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams. Zed Books.

World Commission on Dams. 2000. Dams and Development: A New Framework for Decision-Making. Earthscan.

LeRoy Poff, et al. April 3, 2007. “Homogenization of Regional River Dynamics by Dams and Global Biodiversity Implications,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104, no. 14 pp 5732–5737.

Edward Goldsmith and Nicholas Hildyard. 1984.  The Social and Environmental Effects of Large Dams. Sierra Club Books

Fred Pearce. 1992. The Dammed: Rivers, Dams, and the Coming World Water Crisis.  Bodley Head.

International Energy Agency, Key World Energy Statistics (Paris: IEA, 2010).

World Commission on Dams, Dams and Development

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One Response to Hydropower can’t help with the energy crisis

  1. Jeorge says:

    I agree — smaller dams are probably the only reasonable hydro option in the long run. Since collapse is essentially baked in now one has to wonder how much electricity will even be needed once the dust settles.

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