The Oregon State University has performed a first of its kind, five year study on the effects of small hydropower systems on the environment. The findings suggest that whilst hydropower is indeed a clean, renewable energy source that can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it also has an impact on habitat and biodiversity.
EcoSeed wrote that most people would assume that small hydropower systems have less of an impact on the local environment than large-scale hydroelectric dams, but that is not that case. In fact, in some cases the cumulative damage of many small dams can be far worse than the damage caused by one large dam. And if the size of the dams is directly related to the environmental impact that they have, then large-scale dams have a far smaller impact per megawatt, than small installations.
Desiree Tullos, an associate professor who worked on the study, explained that “there is damage to streams, fisheries, wildlife, threatened species and communities.
Related Article: Brazil’s Belo Monte Dam, Bad Idea?
Furthermore, the projects are often located in areas where poverty and illiteracy are high. The benefit to these local people is not always clear, as some of the small hydropower stations are connected to the national grid, indicating that the electricity is being sent outside of the local region.”
International agencies who believe that small hydroelectric plants can help to provide renewable energy to developing countries, and work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, are supporting projects all around the world.
Mrs. Tullos said that, “the Kyoto Protocol, under the Clean Development Mechanism, is funding the construction of some of these small hydroelectric projects, with the goal of creating renewable energy that’s not based on fossil fuel. The energy may be renewable, but this research raises serious questions about whether or not the overall process is sustainable.”
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com