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Hydropower has become a key source of energy. But there are both pros and cons to hydroelectric energy. Is water power that good? Should we promote it? Vote and share your views (below)
Hydropower pros and cons
Hydropower refers to the energy produced by the power of running or falling water. This is a renewable source of energy that has been used since ancient times. Watermills were very important for many societies as they used the power of water to operate different mechanical devices such as cranes, lifts, mining devices, sawmills, textile mills or corn mills. The Roman Empire, Han Dynasty, and medieval Islamic Caliphate among others recognized the power of water and used it intensively. Since the 19th century, hydropower is used to generate electricity (or hydroelectric energy). Turbines replaced open water wheels and engineering progress enabled the construction of dams which maximized the efficiency of hydropower.
Today hydropower is the largest source of renewable energy in the world, providing approximately 16% of the electricity consumed. Countries such as China, Brazil, Canada and the US produce large quantities of hydroelectric energy. The largest hydroelectric power station in the world is China’s Three Gorges Dam in Hubei. This dam on the Yangtze River has an instant generating capacity of 22,500 MW. This is 25 times the capacity of the Hoover Dam in the US!
There are several advantages to hydroelectric energy:
- Green: hydropower is renewable and clean. The process of generation of electricity does not pollute and water can later be used for irrigation, human consumption, etc. Hydroelectric energy contributes to the sustainability of our planet.
- Safety: hydropower is safe compared to nuclear energy and fossil fuels. Despite some accidents occurred in dams, usually hydroelectric power plants do not entail a great danger to humans.
- Flexibility: the water flow and, thus, the energy output can be regulated to adapt to the consumption needs and storage capacity.
- Durability: dams can produce energy for decades, and require little further investments once they are built.
However there are some disadvantages to hydropower too:
- Environmental impact: before producing hydropower it is necessary to build a dam, changing water levels and flooding large areas. It is also necessary to build roads and power lines. All that a strong impact on wildlife and the ecosystem.
- Displaced people: the construction of a large dam often requires that entire towns move out of the area. In the construction of the Three Gorges Dam it is estimated than 1.2 million people were displaced.
- Expensive: building a dam requires a very important initial investment
- Accidents: in the past old dams often suffered breaches which led to floods and deaths.
Check out these interesting videos with experts debating on the advantages and disadvantages of hydropower:
There are doubts about the use of this type of renewable energy. Many environmental activist oppose to the construction of dams. What do you think? Is hydropower a sustainable solution for the future? Should we rather stick to fossil fuels or move towards other renewable alternatives such as the solar energy? Is hydropower cost effective? Which of the disadvantages and side-effects of hydropower is more harmful?
If you change your mind, you can change your vote simply by clicking on another option.
Hydropower pros and cons: Is hydroelectric energy that good? Should we promote it?
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