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]