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View Diary: I'll be 104 in 2050, and I want to live in a world powered by renewable energy (179 comments)

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  •  How? (0+ / 0-)

    How do you think that hydroelectric can be made more environmentally friendly?  I'm curious.  Are you talking low-head or something?

    Honestly, low or high head, I think we've done enough damming of our wild rivers.  :P  Rivers need to run, they need to churn, they need to dig up sediment  and carry it to the ocean.  They need to flood, they need to ebb.  They need to churn and aerate.  Damming is the antithesis to this.  I'm big on wind, on solar, on geothermal (esp. EGS), etc.  But I'm not fond of hydro.

    •  Your lack of imagination limits you. (0+ / 0-)

      There are alot of ways to harness the power of rivers and streams which do not have to create environmental harm.

      Most notably are things like water wheels, which involve no dam at all, but let's take a look at dams alone.

      Diversion of the water to a side site leaves the river alone but permits generation at the same time.  Amount of diversion is easily variable and the diverted water is returned to the river a little way downstream.

      Conversion of existing non-hydroelectric dams to power-producing sites changes nothing environmentally, but gives us clean, renewable power.

      There are also half-dams, additional bypass methods, and the use of otherwise-unused deep gorges.

      Your "rivers need to run, churn, flood . . ." statement is a wonderful Utopian idea, but impractical.  That same idea extended to wind power (wind needs to blow unfettered) and solar energy (sun should strike only trees and grass and other plants) would leave us with no renewable sources at all.  I've become far too fond of civilization to force the human race back into the 1200's.

      Hydro is our cheapest, cleanest, most scalable, and virtually uninterruptable best source of power.  Try putting your mind to an acceptable method of using it instead of spending so much time thinking of ways to thwart this valuable and clean source of energy.

      Celtic Merlin
      Carlinist

      Sorry I couldn't take your call. I'm using my cell phone to make pancakes. Please leave a message.

      by Celtic Merlin on Fri May 13, 2011 at 01:11:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, you could extend it to wind... (0+ / 0-)

        if you like completely ridiculous analogies.  The amount of wind turbines capture is tiny, they only capture from the surface layer, rivers are tiny ecosystems (proportionally)  while the wind covers a huge area, and the impact of rivers on their environment is dramatically higher than the wind for a given time period and given location.

        Not. Even. Close.

        The same applies to sun. What good is the sun doing hitting a rooftop?  Hitting a driveway?  A road?  A parking lot?  It's only doing harm.  Even in the wild, a large portion of the sun is useless or counterproductive.  In the desert, areas sheltered from the sun are where life thrives.  In the deep oceanic dead zones, solar energy is wasted because the waters are mineral-limited.

        Making bogus analogies doesn't help your argument.

        Hydro is absolutely not the cleanest nor the most scaleable.  As for scalability, most good hydro sites are already taken.  And that's taking 100% of the energy of the river's flow over the economically-harnessable segments, not the 1-2% you'd get from a little side-mounted water-wheel.  As for "clean", hydro has done immense damage to their local ecosystems (you know that the Grand Canyon used to have otters in it?), including hundreds of known extinctions (and many more unknown), and in many cases is a major GHG emitter (due to anoxic decomposition leading to methane release instead of CO2 release; one south american dam studied was found to be causing several times the GHG load of an equivalent amount of coal power  -- not counting the CO2 emissions from all of the setting concrete, which applies to any dam)

        •  You neglected to address these points: (0+ / 0-)
          Diversion of the water to a side site leaves the river alone but permits generation at the same time.  Amount of diversion is easily variable and the diverted water is returned to the river a little way downstream.

          Conversion of existing non-hydroelectric dams to power-producing sites changes nothing environmentally, but gives us clean, renewable power.

          There are also half-dams, additional bypass methods, and the use of otherwise-unused deep gorges.

          But, I understand why and will explain "why" farther down.

          Your Brazilian example is a good example of mismanagement, not a good example of hydroelectric dams.  Decomposition can be severely limited by removing the trees, etc. before the lake is created.  Even if it isn't done, there is a limited amount of decomp which can take place before the fuel for this activity is used up.

          Hydroelectric dams can last many decades.  Some which were built during the Great Depression are still operating safely today in the TVA.  But, you had to go all the way to Brazil to find something to complain about.

          Most good Hydroelectric sites haven't even been touched.  There are dozens - if not hundreds - of dams in this country which produce NO POWER AT ALL.  Converting those to hydroelectric dams would change nothing environmentally.  When you add the smaller sites which would be perfect for a hydroelectric dam to this total, the result is impressive.

          Hydroelectric dams - once in place - require no fuel to be found, mined, processed, or transported.  They work day AND NIGHT.  They work when the wind blows and when it is CALM.  They operate safely in storms, through all temperature conditions, and on cloudy days and every night.  They can scale up and down the amount of power they produce in order to meet demand and are the perfect compliment to solar and wind.  I'd prefer to not have to rely on solar and wind alone on a calm night.

          Finally, your dismissal of water wheel type generation is deplorable, but this seems to stem the "why" I mentioned earlier -- your lack of knowledge of the advancements in this technology, which is understandable given your complete disdain for hydroelectricity.

          Hydro can and will be an important part of our renewable energy future.  Get on board and help us address the few environmental issues with this method of power generation so that this clean, sustainable, and valuable resource will meet your expectations.  Hydro beats the pants off of coal and nuclear, and it provides clean power 24/7/365.  

          Celtic Merlin
          Carlinist

          Sorry I couldn't take your call. I'm using my cell phone to make pancakes. Please leave a message.

          by Celtic Merlin on Sat May 14, 2011 at 09:49:51 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It's not just Brazil. (0+ / 0-)

            Brazil was just where the first big study brought this issue to light (although it's true that it's worse for tropical areas than temperate).  It's not just organic matter that was present when a dam is established that's an issue, either; organic matter influx also decays anoxically.  This is on top of the CO2 emissions from the concrete, which takes your average dam several years of operation to overcome just from that alone.

            According to the last DOE feasability assessment, if you developed every feasible run-of-the-river spot in the US (tens of thousands of them), it would only increase the US's hydro generation by 50%.  Most of the potential generation is in Alaska where it wouldn't be particularly useful anyway.  So much is in Alaska that they put Alaska separately in its own chart (Fig. 16) so as not to throw off the scale of the chart for everything else  ;)

            The overwhelming majority of dams which produce no power in the US never will produce power, as the amount generated wouldn't begin to justify the cost of the retrofit.

            Your next paragraph is a nice mix of hype and nonsense.  Your first sentence applies to both wind and solar.  Your next two ignore the following equations:

            1) Intermittent + peaking = baseload
            2) Intermittent + storage = baseload
            3) Intermittent + integrated storage (such as solar thermal heat retention) = baseload
            4) Intermittent + variable demand (energy-intensive industries, smart grid, etc) - baseload
            5) Intermittent + other type of intermittent = less intermittent
            6) Intermittent + long distance transmission with the same type of intermittent, elsewhere = less intermittent
            7) Intermittent + long distance transmission to new demand = less intermittent

            It also ignores that not all actually environmentally friendly power is not defined by wind and solar.  My personal favorite is EGS.

            Wind and solar are perfectly safe in storms the overwhelming majority of the time -- they're no more likely to fail than dams are during floods (your timing on this is amazing, given the fact that the levees in MS/LA are bubbling right now, and to save them, they're having to flood peoples' houses).  

            It doesn't matter what the technology (although some techs are definitely worse than others) -- the basic facts are that rivers are systems that turn water's potential energy to kinetic energy.  By taking the kinetic energy, you're taking the prime determining factor of the characteristics of the river.  Even if you had boxes that you could sit beside a river and using magic could capture the energy from the water without touching it, you'd still be radically altering the river's properties -- changing the temperature, the evaporation rate, the aertion, the sedimentation/erosion rate, etc -- and thus destroying its ecosystem.  Unless, of course, you only took a small fraction of its energy, but in that case, throw away that "50% more hydropower from developing all feasible resources" figure and replace it with "1% more hydropower from developing all feasible resources".

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