Hydropower

Hydropower provides a perfect example of the problem. Hydroelectric dams, such as those in Siskiyou County, are at risk of being destroyed. We’ve had the benefits of hydropower for so long, we’ve taken it for granted. For the future sake of our country, it is essential to rediscover the tremendous benefits of hydropower, then work not only to save the dams we’ve built, but to expand them.

  1. Crucial. Hydropower is crucial to keeping the power grid operating.

  2. Electricity travels at the speed of light and is not easily or cheaply stored. As a consequence, energy is produced and consumed instantaneously. Because demand fluctuates greatly during the course of a day and from season to season., energy production must be able to fluctuate as rapidly as demand. Nuclear power plants, unfortunately, can take up to 1 month to go from 0% to 100% output.

  3. Hydroelectric dams, by contrast, can go from 0% to 100% output in 10 minutes. No other energy source responds as fast as hydropower. Because of its rapid-response capability, hydropower keeps the grid operating. It helps “black start” (restore) a failed power grid, such as the one that failed in New York and the entire Eastern Seaboard. Hydropower also makes it possible to use undependable alternative energy sources on the grid, such as wind and solar, by making up for their fluctuations.

  4. Cheap. Hydropower is the cheapest of the energy sources and by a large margin. According to Ron Arteno, the production cost of producing hydropower is 1/2-cent per kilowatt-hour, as compared to 20-30 cents/kWh for steam generators and 30-40 cents/kWh for alternative energy sources. That is because only one person is required to operate a hydropower plant as compared to 300 per shift for steam generation.

  5. Dependable. Hydropower is available 24/7 365 days a year, irrespective of whether the wind is blowing or the sun is shining.

  6. Green. Hydropower is absolutely clean. There is no combustion, no smoke, and no carbon footprint.

  7. Pleasant to the eyes. Hydropower does require stored energy resources. However, this is accomplished with lakes that are beautiful to behold, and which make healthy ecosystems that are enjoyed by wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts alike.  Furthermore, the water reserves keep the rivers flowing in the summer, and from flooding in the wet seasons.

  8. Reliable. Hydropower generators are highly reliable. The generators at the Copco dams in Siskiyou County, for example, are nearly 100 years old and working just fine.

  9. Renewable. Nature takes care of recycling the water from ocean to river.

  10. Sustainable. Hydropower does not consume its energy source. The water flows in then out. There is no “fuel” to replenish.

  11. No production is required, i.e., no harvesting, mining, drilling, or refining is needed.

  12. No transportation, transportation fuel, or pipelines are required to bring water to the dams.

Other Energy Sources

Now compare hydropower to two other categories of energy.

Fuel-based energy sources include coal, oil, wood, gas, and nuclear. The fuel is consumed to convert water into steam, which rotates a turbine that drives a generator. There are several common characteristics of these energy sources:

  1. The fuel is consumed.

  2. Pollution is a by-product.

  3. The fuel must be produced (harvested, mined, drilled or otherwise).

  4. The fuel must be transported and stored.

  5. The fuel must be replenished, e.g., new trees planted or new oil wells dug.

  6. The residue must be disposed of.

  7. Power generation cannot be adjusted as rapidly or reliably as hydropower.

Alternative energy sources such as wind and solar energy sources are touted as being the ultimate in sustainable, renewable, and clean energy generation, but they also have these characteristics:

  1. They are most expensive and least efficient.

  2. Output is unreliable. Nature controls whether or not there is wind or sunlight.

  3. They are not all that eco-friendly. They are ugly and can harm ecosystems. Wind turbines, for example, are often located on otherwise pristine hilltops and ridges where they despoil the view, and the rotating blades kill hawks and other birds, including endangered species.

  4. There is a huge capital cost to building these new infrastructures.

  1. The Benefits & Necessity of Hydropower

  2. Hydroelectric power generation is the forgotten energy source we take for granted. Yet, listen in as Ron Arteno, a hydroelectric operator since 1985, explains why hydropower is not only a perfect energy source, it is essential to the operation of our national power grid.

  3. Conversation with Kirk MacKenzie

  4. Dec 29, 2011 radio interview on Walls In Our Minds

  5. email: Ron Arteno

Defend Rural America, The Constitutional County, Constitutional County, and
Constitutional Counties are trademarks of Kirk F. MacKenzie.

Kirk MacKenzie

Founder

Defend Rural AmericaTM

650-380-8027

Skype: kirkmack1

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