• 4 minutes Ten Years of Plunging Solar Prices
  • 7 minutes Hydrogen Capable Natural Gas Turbines
  • 10 minutes World looks on in horror as Trump flails over pandemic despite claims US leads way
  • 13 minutes Large gas belt discovered in China
  • 18 mins Would bashing China solve all the problems of the United States
  • 7 hours Yale University Epidemiologist Publishes Paper on Major Benefits of Hydroxchloroquine for High-risk Outpatients. Quacksalvers like Fauci should put lives ahead of Politics
  • 2 hours Model 3 cheaper to buy than BMW 3 series.
  • 1 hour Thugs in Trumpistan
  • 11 mins Pompeo's Hong Kong
  • 22 mins China To Boost Oil & Gas Exploration, As EU Prepares To Commit Suicide
  • 1 day China to Impose Dictatorship on Hong Kong
  • 21 hours COVID 19 May Be Less Deadly Than Flu Study Finds
  • 14 mins China’s Oil Thirst Draws an Armada of Tankers
  • 11 hours Income report showing potential future spending and economic growth
  • 4 hours Coronavirus hype biggest political hoax in history
  • 11 hours US-China tech competition accelerates: on Friday 05/15 new sanctions on Huawei, on Monday 05/18 Samsung chief visits China
  • 12 hours The CDC confirms remarkably low coronavirus death rate. Where is the media?
  • 2 days 60 mph electric mopeds
The Dark Side Of Hydropower

The Dark Side Of Hydropower

Hydropower dwarfs solar and wind…

Amy Gleich

Amy Gleich

Freelance multimedia journalist. Recent graduate of the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication's Master's Program.You can follow Amy on Twitter.

More Info

Premium Content

Global Hydroelectric Use On The Rise

Hoover Dam
Until 1948, Hoover Dam was the largest hydroelectric plant in the world. It’s still the most visited dam in the world, with over 7 million tourists touring it each year
credit: Airwolfhound

Hydroelectricity is often overlooked in discussions of renewable energy sources, despite being the world’s largest source of non-fossil-fuel power. But that may be changing.

According to the British Petroleum’s 2014 Statistical Review of World Energy, global usage of hydroelectricity has been increasing over the last decade. China tops the list of countries that have invested in new hydropower, with an almost five percent increase from 2012 to 2013.

The benefits are obvious: The cost of hydroelectricity is fairly low, just three to five U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to around 13 cents per kilowatt hour for conventionally-produced electricity. Hydroelectric plants also emit far less carbon dioxide than their fossil fuel counterparts.

Once a plant is constructed, it will produce no direct waste. Hydroelectricity is an easily scaled resource -- the amount of energy produced can quickly be increased to match a spike in demand. It’s also obviously green – the only pollution involved is when a plant is being constructed. Finally, it’s reliable; as long as there’s water in the reservoir, energy can be produced.

Hydropower is not perfect, however. As with most forms of energy production, there are negatives. Dams change the flow of the water and can impact fish populations – sometimes negatively, but sometimes positively, too, as unregulated rivers can have large and unexpected fluctuations in flow. (This excellent interactive animated graphic lets you experience how a water system works in its natural state, with a poorly run dam, and with a well-run dam.)

Another potential problem is drought. Hydropower plants are dependent on how much water is available. California’s hydroelectric portfolio is in danger due to the current drought; as of February, most of the state’s reservoirs were well below 50 percent of their capacity.

Despite those challenges, some 150 countries partially rely on hydroelectricity for clean, predictable energy. Use by Asian-Pacific countries is up 36 percent from 2012 levels and the U.S. and Canada increased their reliance on hydropower by seven percent and 10 percent, respectively. In Pakistan, hydropower is leading the way as a cheaper alternative to fossil fuel-based energy.

Technological advancements are fueling hydropower’s growth. In 2012, Verdant Power installed a three-bladed electric turbine into New York’s East River. As many as 30 turbines could ultimately dot the waterway by 2017.

There’s also been progress in addressing some of the environmental concerns posed by dams. For fresh-water fish like trout that need to travel upstream, dams present a life-altering impediment. Some hydroelectric plants, like Montana’s Thompson Falls plant, have implemented “fish ladders” that allow native species to continue their natural ascent up the river.

It’s the kind innovation that can only encourage a wider adoption of hydropower.

By. Amy Gleich of Oilprice.com


Download The Free Oilprice App Today

Back to homepage





Leave a comment
  • Wade Joel on May 10 2016 said:
    I think that hydropower is a really cool concept. Like you said, it's the world's largest source of non-fossil-fuel power. I'm kinda surprised that we don't use it more, considering that it is the cheapest way to get power. You said it costs 3-5 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to 13 cents per kilowatt-hour for conventionally-produced electricity. Thank you fo the great read.

Leave a comment




Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News