Hydropower Pros and Cons

Introduction

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.