Hydroelectricity has been considered a cleaner source of power in comparison to polluting fossil fuels. Hydroelectricity also comes with benefits like provision of water and irrigation as well as flood control and a low dependence on ester (carbon-based) energy sources. However, you must be wondering, how eco-friendly is hydel power?
How Does Hydroelectricity Work?
Conventional hydropower technologies can be categorized into impoundment (dam), diversion, and pumped storage. An impoundment facility is the most common type out of the three, which stores water in a reservoir behind a dam. When water is released, hydropower plants capture the energy of falling water to generate electricity. A turbine is used to convert the kinetic energy of falling water into mechanical energy. A generator is used to convert the mechanical energy from the turbine into electrical energy. The water can be released to either meet the electricity needs or maintain a constant reservoir level.
Impact of Impoundment Facilities on the Environment
Large-scale hydropower generation facilities have a huge impact on the environment. Dams in particular wreck havoc; large scale inundation of land causes decomposition of all the flora in the area, generating massive amounts of greenhouse gases. A rise in sediments due to water impoundment and increase of nutrients due to decomposed organic matter can also result in excess growth of algae. This algae floats on top of the water surface, blocking out sunlight to the aquatic plants below. This can result in the death of entire food chains underwater. Apart from this, dams obstruct fish migration and can prove fatal for fish and other aquatic creatures who get close to turbine blades. Setting up hydropower facilities also require relocation of entire communities as villages now also get submerged.
Impact of Run-of-the-River Facilities
Do run-of-the-river plants have the same issues as impoundment plants? Smaller run-of-the-river plants do have the same issues during installation and running, however, they have a lesser impact on the environment, though these smaller plants could still affect the course of the river and river life.
In conclusion, hydroelectric plants could still impact the local environment hugely, which could include flooding areas to affecting water and the eco-system inclusive of the fish and plants.