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Arguments For And Against Hydroelectric Power Environmental Sciences Essay

1929 words (8 pages) Essay in Environmental Sciences

5/12/16 Environmental Sciences Reference this

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The dams that are built are holding back a higher level of water in an area called the reservoir. From here the water is let through the plant intake and into the penstock which brings it down to a turbine water wheel at the lower water level. The water pressure increases at it flows down the penstock and it is this pressure as well as flow that drive the turbine that is connected to the generator. Inside the generator there is a turbine,. Here large electro magnets are attached to the router and located within coils within copper wires in the Stator. As the generator router spins a flow of electrons are released within the coils of the stator. This produces electricity that can be stepped up in voltage through the station transforms and sent through transition lines. [2] The amount of electricity generated here is depending on the volume of water flow and amount of hydraulic head [3] (“The vertical distance between the surface of the reservoir and the surface of the river immediately downstream from the dam [4] “)

Hydroelectric power is responsible for approximately fifteen percent of the world electricity and is therefore the largest renewable source of energy in the world. [5] It has through its green image been worshiped for being eco-friendly and is reliable in terms of consistency and shut down time if so wishes. The design is also reliable and any futures damages will not be that expensive to repair as well as only a few breakdowns have occurred throughout the years. Also that hydro power is independent from fossil fuels and the operation costs are very low compared to several other energy sources. So what is the reason to why activists and scientist has reacted so strong upon this renewable energy source? A source like this that is 90 percent efficient when it’s converted from water pressure to kinetic energy and the groundwater is increased by reserving water in the reservoir [6] , shouldn’t this be good?

The fact that hydroelectric power controls flooding and provide flood protection in downstream areas [7] does not necessary have to be good. The water that is trapped within the reservoir is damaging to the quality since it will lower the dissolvent of oxygen as well as reduce the nutrition and sediments due to lack of the water flow [8] . Furthermore will the lack of water flow create particles and unwanted vermin into the hydrogen cycle. When the water is leaving the dams the risk for erosion is high because of the lack of the original currency from the water as well as increasing the risk for the flood to clog [9] . The hydropower station s is interrupting the ecosystem and the habitants of the river. Therefore have the government and different regulation such as EU constructed regulations that the plant must fulfill. The problem with this is that the regulations are set to low and that private investors can sneak their way by this. Low Impact Hydrogen Institute have created a voluntary certificate for plants to demonstrate their facilities, this would benefit the plant as well since it would drag consumers to invest in such a hydro plant [10] . Though few actually goes through with this certificate. Furthermore, when building such massive stations it takes time, space and money. Scientists are arguing that when the actual construction of the power station is finished it does not take much construction work or entertainment, though they do not mention the side effects for animals and humans in a local, regional and global area.

2000, The Three Gorges Dam Project, over one million people were forced to move from their homes due to the construction of a hydroelectrically power station in China. It had a huge social effect for the people having to leave their homes where immemorial traditions and believes were held, for an unknown resort were their roots never had visited. [11] Large areas will have to evacuate and the local will suffer from this. Also biological effects will occur since the construction will interfere with the agriculture. Hydropower stations are well known for the massive percentage of the fishes that gets killed when passing through the station. The turbines have to become more developed to increase the mortality rate of the fishes in the water. Furthermore it can also become hard for some animals to complete their life cycle as the flooding is being controlled; sometimes it is almost impossible for them [12] . Adaption takes time and the time given is not enough for extensive biological changes. A hydropower station will have effects upon self-managed eco systems, the breeding of animals lives and algae’s as well as disrupt natural seasonal change, the question is; is it worth it?

In Nelson, B.C., Canada, about two hundred people protested against the growing number of hydroelectric power stations. [13] In Canada the hydro plants is responsible for the extensive amount of sixty percent of the country’s total energy output. Also the province of Quebec is responsible for the world’s largest production of hydro electrical power [14] .

“We are concerned about our ecosystem. We are concerned about the wildness of that creek”, said Yeow, a member of the Slocan River Stream keepers [15] .

The project planner for this particular hydroelectric power station told the media and the protesters that the river-project is going to be a part of B.C´s energy future since the demand for energy is far too extensive to consider another energy source. Also that hydropower stations is one of the cleanest ways of providing an area with energy. Is this true?

The Scientist, 24 February 2005 by Duncan Graham-Rowe, published an article supporting the fact that hydroelectric power stations does not deserve to be associated with a green image or environmental friendly. These dams should be an example of a renewable energy source that do not need fossil fuels or emit any greenhouse gases. A new researches show though that hydro power stations regularly produces a significant amount of carbon dioxide and methane.

“The green image of hydro power as a benign alternative to fossil fuels is false, says Eric Duchemin, a consultant for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Everyone thinks hydro is very clean, but this is not the case, he says.” [16] 

The reason to these emissions is the carbon that is tied up in plants and the trees gets stored in the reservoir when it is flooded and the plants rot. As it begins to decay the plants on the reservoirs bottom decomposes without oxygen which creates dissolved methane. This gets released into the atmosphere and cause drastic effects. Methane has a twenty-one times stronger effect on global warming than carbon dioxide has [17] . The reason why this has not been more spread is because the emission varies from plant to plant; sometimes it is environmental friendly, sometimes it is contributing more to the greenhouse effect than the burning of fossil fuels does. Though if the bad side effects will continue to occur more frequently it will bring consequences for mankind. Hydroelectric power is a renewable source of energy and therefore it will not run out but the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will increase and the long term effects will be drastic. It might be good for the individual businesses when having a stable source to rely on but without our planet intact, it will not matter.

Before building a plant the construction leaders will have to look at the development of the plant. How much will have to be put into the area? How developed is it? If no development at all exists than the operation will have to go even further; infrastructure, transportation, waterways, and bridges. Also maintaining water quality, archeological areas and artifacts will cost money [18] . It all will cost and the local area will suffer if the economical aspect is not taken care of. An example of this is the hydro power station Akocak HHP, Trabzon, Turkey, that cost approximately $124 million to construct [19] . This had drastic effects upon the local area but regional it contributed to Turkey’s welfare. Since a hydropower station can have an effect upon the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) it is most likely this were the case of Turkey. To analyze other regions or countries cost of data and input can help the country grow and make the decision if power plant would contribute to the countries well-fare. Obviously though with environmental and local side effects.

Globally the trends of energy sources follow the same pattern: when oil prices goes up, the search for other alternative energy sources become attractive. The government sees the hydropower as an efficient energy source and even though the construction of it will be expensive it will pay off in the long run when looking at it from an economical aspect. This whole cycle is important considering globalization, trade and relations to other countries. [20] 

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The consequences for having hydroelectric power plants have been supported and opposed because of many reasons, among several have been mentioned in the text. It is not just to build a dam but to look at the surrounding as well, because it will have environmental, economic, political and social effects. The agriculture will suffer even though mankind tries to prevent this through technology. Because nature has a power that is greater than humanity and this do the opposing environmentalists and social scientists agree with. But shouldn’t we look through the population and business aspect? Population can always be moved and greenhouse gases are not always the case. Infrastructure can be build and trade can be in favor and technology can prevent nature from taking its path. Everything is relative and different depending on which pair of glasses you chose to look through.

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