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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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Tradeoffs in energy: the Three Gorges Dam

Posted by Evan Herrnstadt on November 20, 2007

The Three Gorges Dam (TGD) has been a source of controversy in the environmental world since the project’s inception. However, it effectively embodies some of the tradeoffs inherent in energy production. As part of a series on “China’s epic pollution crisis”, the New York Times has an article outlining the consequences and tension surrounding the TGD.

The problem of balancing economic growth and development with carbon mitigation is not new, but China is a somewhat unique example due to its sheer size:

China’s insatiable appetite for energy is mostly being met with a building spree of coal-fired power plants. Coal accounts for 67 percent of China’s energy supply. Just last year, China added 102 gigawatts of generating capacity, as much as the entire capacity of France.

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