Small Hydropower Dams on Rise As Concerns Grow About Big Projects

The number of small hydropower projects in the U.S. is increasing as utilities try to avoid concerns about the environmental impact of large dams, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission now has applications for 14,000 megawatts of hydropower projects — enough to power 7 million to 14 million homes — and most are located on small rivers, streams, and creeks. That figure is a 20 percent increase from two years ago.

As the number of projects grows in states such as Washington, Colorado, and Montana, environmentalists are beginning to raise objections to the small dams, which critics say can still block fish runs, interfere with whitewater rafting trips, and carve up wilderness habitat with roads, power lines, and other infrastructure.

“One plant here, one plant there, maybe we would support that,” said an official at American Whitewater, a rafters’ group. “But with so many… this really gets to be an issue of cumulative impacts.”

Utilities argue that the smaller dams often have minimal environmental impact and, most importantly, emit no greenhouse gases.

Appearing courtesy of Yale Environment 360.

[photo credit: Flickr]

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5 comments on “Small Hydropower Dams on Rise As Concerns Grow About Big Projects

Bill Ni

i think the dams are necessary and helpful to the environment and the people credits need to realize there plenty of fish in the sea lol

Should we not rather focus on systemic improvements to existing hydroelectric operations to boost energy efficiency/production/storage/usage/environment/etc.?

I have been analyzing one of FERC’s projects, once commonly called:

“The Jewel of the Blue Ridge”

In my analysis and discussion in regards to this documentation, you discover that corruption is the most expensive systemic inefficiency/cost to the taxpayer/energy consumer. While it has the potential to greatly benefit the taxpayer, it has been run as a speculative operation, running at 1/3 its energy generation potential by a corporate scam of hide and “peak”.

Shall we not implement a systemic process improvement that is environmentally-beneficial, enhancing the surrounding region’s economy, scenery, etc.?

Kevin Banister

Ok, I am the DOE and I think that we should give a Spanish wind company 534 million dollars to allow them to monopolize the wind market. They are not even an American company for Gods sake. Then the DOE doles out another half a billion dollars to a solar company that plans on powering about 26 thousand homes. At that rate, it will cost the tax payers 720 trillion dollars to move to renewable energy. I withheld opinion on this thinking that the government would do the right thing. Was I ever mistaken.

Damming rivers disrupt the natural ecology of the waterway, and interfere with ecosystems in a huge way. Whether it is a big or a small river doesn’t matter, the results are the same. I really feel that this is not a sustainable long-term solution, and that other forms of alternative energy should rather be explored.

I’ve also noticed the increasing availability of micro water turbines as people are realizing more and more what energy can be derived from just having something spinning on the side of the relentless flow of the river heading to the ocean. Here the trick would be to not impede the flow of the water too much while robbing it of some of its energy.

Stagnant ponds of water is bad news, killing rivers worldwide. Damming rivers cause unnatural lakes that receive inadequate oxygenation due to its disruption of natural processes. We are not even talking about disrupting migration patterns of fish etc.

Stop tampering with nature, for the sake of our children and their children. I implore you as fellow travellers on this spaceship we call planet earth.

Namaste all.


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