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Published on October 12th, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans


Advantages/Disadvantages of Hydropower

Hydropower (which is referred to as micro hydro when used in home-based installations) currently provides 10 percent of the electricity used in the United States and 20 percent of all electricity production worldwide.  In Norway, 99 percent of electricity comes from hydropower, making Norway a leading nation in the use of alternative energy.

Hydropower is not only a cleaner source of energy than oil but is it more cost effective as well.  The most efficient coal burning plants are only able to convert around 50 percent of their energy into electricity, whereas modern day hydropower turbines convert up to 90 percent of their energy into electricity.

Hydropower can cost less than a penny per kWh (Kilowatt Hour) compared to fossil fuel power plants at around 2 to 3 cents per kWh.  That may not seem like a big difference, but when factored out over a year and the millions of kWh’s Americans burn, it adds up to a huge savings.

Hydropower plants also have an added bonus as they create recreational opportunities for people as well as electricity.  Hydropower dams provide not only water-based activities, but since much of the surrounding land is public they also encourage numerous other outdoor activities aside from boating, skiing, fishing, and hunting.

On the negative side, hydropower dams can damage the surrounding environment and alter the quality of the water by creating low dissolved oxygen levels, which impacts fish and the surrounding ecosystems.  They also take up a great deal of space and can impose on animal, plant, and even human environments.

By 2020, it is projected that the percentage of power obtained from hydropower dams will decrease to around four percent because no new plants are in the works, and because more money is being invested in other alternative energy sources such as solar power and wind power.

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