To establish which energy source is best, we use six key metrics. Specifically, these are energy price, life span, energy generated […]
Hydroelectric dams are huge manmade structures that can generate substantial amounts of energy from rivers.3 They do this by blocking the natural course of the river in order to create a huge reservoir of water,4 often several hundred metres deep.5 This places the water at the base of the reservoir under huge amounts of pressure which, when released, creates an extremely powerful flow of water.6 This water is directed onto turbines that are connected to generators in order to create an abundance of electricity.7 Unfortunately though, hydroelectric dams can be extremely harmful to the environment. Not only do they deprive agricultural land and fish downstream of essential nutrients and minerals,8 but they also result in a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions. This is because several thousand kilometres of natural habitat is flooded, including tress, plants and wildlife – all to make space for the new reservoir. The remains from the flood are then left to rot at the bottom of the reservoir, whereby they release enormous amounts of greenhouse gases.9 In fact, the greenhouse gases emitted can be more than twice the amount that would have been emitted by an equivalent coal power plant.10 Currently, hydroelectricity is the most widely used form of renewable energy, however, it still produces less than 3% of the world’s energy demand.11 It does have the potential to generate some 14 PWh of energy – around 13% of our planet’s current demand.12
To power the UK using hydroelectric dams, a reservoir roughly 93% the size of the country would be required.21 What’s more, to catch all the rainfall, a land area of around 38 times the country would be needed.22
To be completed.
Hydroelectric dams work best in mountainous regions with high rainfall.23 This means they have the most potential in South America, central Africa and much of Asia.
|Value for Money|||||★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★|
|Reliability|||||★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★|
|Eco-friendliness|||||★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★|
|Global Potential|||||★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★|
|Overall|||||★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★|
To be completed.
Title image taken by Andy and reproduced under license from Adobe Stock.
United States map created by SUPER RADICAL.
Image of Russian hydroelectric dam taken by Evgeny V and reproduced under license from Shutterstock.
World map shows all countries that have a gross theoretical hydraulic energy potential greater than 300 MWh per square kilometre. World map based on 2004 data sourced from Energie-Atlas GmbH – ‘Hydraulic Energy Potential’ and created by SUPER RADICAL.
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