Hydropower Pros and Cons
Hydropower sources rely on the flow of water to produce energy. There are several important advantages in using hydropower to generate electricity.
- Hydropower is renewable.
- It normally provides consistent, baseload power, as opposed to solar and wind, which, although renewable, provide power on an intermittant or variable basis.
- Once a hydropower plant is constructed, there are no fuel costs.
- Greenhouse gas emissions are very low under normal conditions, particularly in non-tropical regions of the world.
However, hydroelectric dams also have some disadvantages:
- Dam reservoirs cause large loss of land.
- Dams are usually located in remote areas, requiring heavy investment in transmission lines to carry power to population centers.
- There is significant damage to ecological systems, both upstream and downstream of the power plant.
- Drought can adversely affect the river flow and cause power shortages.
- In tropical regions, substantial amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, can be released, as submerged flora decay under anaerobic conditions.
- Development of a reservoir is often disruptive to the lives of people who must be relocated.
- There is the potential for failure of the dam, leading, possibly, to great loss of life.