Hydropower is promoted as an eco-friendly option when it comes to sourcing electricity. This is true only up to a certain point. There are many advantages and disadvantages to hydropower that are often overlooked. Here are just a few of the pros and cons:
Con – Hydroelectric dams are very expensive to build.
Pro – Hydropower is cost-effective, after the initial cost of building the dam is overcome.
Pro – The dams for hydropower facilities create wildlife habitats, as well as leisure spots for people if the dam isn’t used for drinking water. If it is used for drinking water, the dam serves a dual purpose and can help in times of drought.
Con – Fish are killed whenever the plant’s turbines run. Also, the unnatural block in the river’s system disturbs natural fish migratory and spawning patterns.
Con – Hydroelectric dams don’t produce a lot of power compared to other electricity-generating systems.
Pro – Although their power is limited, hydroelectric dams produce 19% of the world’s power, it is estimated. This is quite a large contribution in a world that is struggling to lessen its reliance on non-sustainable fuels.
Con – When a dam breaks down, it causes huge amounts of damage. Problems with hydroelectric dams are very rare, but if a dam breaks during a flash flood the damage is huge.
Pro – Producing electricity through hydropower is a lot safer than other methods such as nuclear power. Hydropower can also be shut down quickly, meaning crises can be dealt with more swiftly.
Pro – The biggest benefit of hydropower is that it is renewable energy. After so much time spent relying on non-renewable resources for our power, the world is wising up to the fact that renewable energy is the way of the future.
Con – The major drawback of hydropower is that it involves the building of dams. This sounds innocent enough, but the sizable dams needed for full-scale hydropower end up flooding whole valleys. This significantly disrupts the local ecosystem. These dams also prevent the natural flow of silt down rivers and onto beaches and estuaries. The worldwide benefits of the renewable energy source that is hydropower usually overcome these local environmental concerns.
There is also information that shows that when hydropower dams are built in forested areas, the greenhouse gasses released from the decaying plants underwater rivals the gasses produced by traditional fuels. This factor can be remedied by clearing the land before it is flooded, instead of leaving things as they are. In the past, dams have been built over whole towns without a single house being removed. In the future, land clearing may be the best way to ensure a healthy dam environment.
Some anti-dam organisations have succeeded in increasing awareness of the drawbacks of hydropower. These groups, such as the Hydropower Reform Coalition, state that their aim is not to end the use of hydropower completely but to use them with more awareness of their impact on the environment. Hopefully, this increasing awareness will mean that hydropower is of clearer benefit to the world in the future.