Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

New ‘dro yo

Posted by Rich Sweeney on October 28, 2008

Apparently we haven’t exhausted conventional hydro resources in this country. From Greenwire:

Hydropower makes a quiet comeback (10/28/2008)

Environmentalists have long criticized hydropower because dams can pose a threat to fish, but amid that criticism and the the rush to trendier forms of renewable energy like wind and solar, hydropower is quietly making a comeback.

Pennsylvania Power and Light is spending $350 million to build a new powerhouse at Holtwood Hydroelectric Dam on the Susquehanna River that has not changed much since it started operating in 1910. The project will be the first new hydroelectric plan in the East in 20 years. There, two sets of larger turbines and generators will produce 125 megawatts, enough to power 100,000 homes.

The Holtwood expansion will also aid migrating fish. Currently, shad swimming upstream on the Susquehanna River to spawn often cannot find the dam’s fish lift because of strong currents. But by siphoning some water to the new turbines and widening the river channel, the project will ease the flow, letting more fish pass, said Holtwood manager Chris Porse.

Other utilities are proposing more than 70 projects that would boost U.S. hydroelectric capacity by at least 11,000 megawatts during the next decade. Hydropower, the oldest and most widely used alternative energy, currently provides 10 percent of U.S. electricity generation.

As coal prices have doubled since last year, new hydropower additions are becoming more economically viable. Utilities are adding generators and hydroelectric plants to dams that have none (Paul Davidson, USA Today, Oct. 27). — KJH

11 GW of new hydro in the next decade would be ridick. Total existing hydro is only about 77 GW.

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