Renewable energy sources have been on the rise as home, and business owners become more environmentally conscious. Hydropower, specifically, is the most widely used source of renewable energy. According to the USGS, hydropower represents about 17% of total electricity production. Hydropower plants utilize running water stored in dams or naturally flowing rivers to create electricity. The water rotates turbine blades that spin a generator to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. While hydropower is a great way to minimize air and water pollution, like many other forms of renewable energy, there are pros and cons.
One of the most significant advantages of hydropower as an energy source is its minimal pollution level. Since hydropower is fueled by water, it’s a clean form of fuel; meaning, the plants won’t pollute the air like other power plants that produce energy using fossil fuels like natural gasses or coal.
Low Operation and Maintenance Costs
Hydropower plants have much lower operating costs than other energy-generating plants that use fossil fuels. River water is a constant resource, so any volatility in the economy doesn’t cause an impact. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, are primarily impacted by economic fluctuations, causing their prices to quickly fluctuate with any changes in the market.
Because hydropower generates energy through the water cycle and the sun, it is considered a renewable energy source. This works hand in hand with the low market costs to make hydropower a reliable and affordable energy source.
Although hydropower is a reliable energy source with low operation and maintenance costs, initial investment costs for hydropower plants can be high. “Hydroelectric power plants are very costly to construct due to logistical challenges like topography, laying foundations underwater, and the materials used to build it. The only upside is that after completion, it will require less maintenance.”
Negative Impact on Aquatic Habitat
With the potential for environmental benefits, hydropower can also cause some environmental damage, especially when it comes to aquatic life. Building dams for the plants can impact the breeding season for fish, as well as create an unfortunate food shortage, ultimately leading to a drop in reproduction rates and a rise in overall death for various species of fish.