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Is Hydroelectric Energy Futile?

Updated: Mar 15

As the search for alternatives to fossil fuels continues, none are more prominent than renewable energy. From solar panels, windmills, and biofuels there are a plethora of options. However, few can compete with the benefits of hydroelectricity. Despite some of the negative environmental impacts and expensive costs, its efficiency and renewability make it a lucrative source of energy.


Hydroelectric energy is primarily beneficial due to its renewability and efficiency. The actual production of energy causes no carbon emissions, and because there is an infinite supply of water, hydroelectric energy will never run out. This can lessen economic and political conflicts between countries by averting fights over energy sources and producing an independent energy source.


Furthermore, hydroelectric energy is two times more efficient than any other form of renewable energy at converting to electricity. According to KiwiEnergy, hydro energy is up to 90% efficient at converting water into electricity while the next closest is wind power, at 45%. Another factor that makes hydroelectricity lucrative is the fact that production is close to a constant rate all the time. Solar power and wind power, for example, don’t have this because they need the sun to be up and for there to be a breeze, respectively.


Moreover, producing hydroelectricity is one of the safest ways of creating energy. Most issues are caused by dam failures, or poor damn construction, in contrast to other energy sources, like fossil fuels, that involve combustible fuels.


I may be coming across as a bit aggressive with my praise of hydroelectric energy, but I will acknowledge that there are some major drawbacks. For example, building a dam causes considerable flooding issues. This flooding can cause the displacement of natural habitats, killing vegetation that emits greenhouse gasses over time.


On top of that, the flow of water also has a major impact on the marine ecosystem. The water flow can impact a fish’s ability to migrate and breathe due to lower oxygen levels near the dam. Another downside is the initial expenses. According to KiwiEnergy, since the 1950s, an estimated $2,000 billion has been spent on dam construction around the world, along with a 96% overestimate of costs of construction, on average.


As presented above, there is an argument to be made for either side to be correct. While I don’t lean 100% to a side, I believe the pros of hydroelectricity slightly outweigh the cons. From safety to reliability to ever-growing efficiency, hydroelectric energy is the way to go. Although solar and wind power might dominate the renewable energy market in the future, there are still plenty of reasons for hydroelectricity to remain a prominent source of energy.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Sources


“Benefits of Hydropower | Department of Energy.” Energy.Gov, https://www.energy.gov/eere/water/benefits-hydropower. Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.


“Energy Return on Investment of Hydroelectric Power Generation Calculated Using a Standardised Methodology.” WeCanFigureThisOut.org, 25 March 2015, https://wecanfigurethisout.org/ENERGY/Web_notes/Technology_Comparisons/EROI_Supporting_Files/Atalson%202015%20-%20EROI%20of%20hydroelectric%20-%20Elsevier%20preprint.pdf. Accessed 10 July 2023.


“Pros and Cons of Hydroelectric Energy - Kiwi Energy.” Kiwi Energy, 15 Jan. 2020, https://kiwienergy.us/pros-and-cons-of-hydroelectric-energy/.

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