Hydroelectric power

Why is it being dismantled in so many places despite there being a big push for renewables? I know many places in the West are having droughts, but this is happening all over the country. I live in Maine, where we always have a lot of water. Many dams have been removed from the state over the past few years. Hydro is renewable,clean, and at least in Maine, consistent power. What’s wrong with it? I don’t see a reason to abandon hydro.

There have been some threads on this in the past if you want to look them up. Short answer though is that, while it’s clean energy, it also does a lot of damage to the local environment. It has a definite impact on water systems and water sheds. Getting new plants in is pretty much out of the question in the US anyway. As for older ones, many are being returned to nature because they no longer do anything except harm the local ecology.

Yep. Alas for a darned good idea, but rivers do a lot better “wild.” Even the big dams now have a practice of letting water flow through in large amounts at once for artificial “flash floods.”

There may be some value in halfway approaches, such as smaller weirs rather than big dams. Flash floods may be good for the health of a river, but they are harmful to human interests – property and lives. A compromise might be workable.

I looked into this a while back. Most of the dams being removed do not have functioning hydroelectric turbines. They’re old and no longer performing the function they were originally built for. They’re just blocking water and fish for no good reason. No doubt there’s some exceptions. Perhaps the OP could point out one or more of those exceptions so we can discuss them.

A river can rebound more quickly than most imagined when its dams are removed. Here’s an example in Maine:

The little dams never did produce much power anyway, and wouldn’t be something you’d consider building today if they weren’t already there.

Here’s another example: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/06/11/481684318/for-the-first-time-in-decades-herring-are-spawning-in-a-hudson-river-tributary

They think fish are more important than humans. The requirements for anything near a river are costing us humans billions of dollars and cities CAN’T AFFORD any more of this!

For example they want water discharged from a sewage treatment plant to be “refrigerated to an exact temperature”. That costs more money than the citizens of many communities can afford.

There needs to be a balance between fish and humans. Sure clean up the water, but be a little more reasonable with these environmental mandates! We can’t afford it!

And dams provide cheap electricity. If these anti-dam people have their way, they will remove every single dam! Again we can’t afford it.


And yet, the only dams actually being targeted are ones that aren’t doing anything anymore. They aren’t producing electricity…some of them NEVER produced electricity, since many of the dams, especially in the East, were actually built for either older style water wheel power or other water powered tasks or holding areas for such, or for early flood control. They have, in most cases, long past their utility. They aren’t talking about tearing down the Hover Dam, for instance, or dams that are currently being used in actual electrical generation for the grid OR key dams used for flood control.

Essentially, in the US, all we are tapped out for hydroelectric. Every good place to put in a hydroelectric dam has already been used, and the cost to benefit for new ones just isn’t there. And, yeah, part of that is environmental impact…but a lot of it is simply that large numbers of people live in the areas where new plants could be put. And, this not being China, the government can’t simply and by fiat tell 2 million people to pack up, disregard all environmental impacts as well as cultural and archeological and just go ahead and put in such a dam…one that has cause a hell of a lot of issues on all fronts to China, but which the CCP doesn’t give a rats ass about. That what you want?

My god, people sure find a lot of things to be angry about.

I would swear I read something a few years ago about new technology making it feasible to generate small amounts of power from the sorts of small, low dams that are common in the eastern U.S. Not enough to power whole cities, but maybe enough to make a difference in a small town that still has a weir where the founder’s gristmill used to be in the 1790s. I can’t find anything about it now; maybe it was one of those developments that gets a bit of press interest but never lives up to it. Ring a bell with anyone?

Here’ a good article on the removal of the Elwa dam in Washington.

The turbine generators in these dams require maintenance to keep them going. And that’s expensive. Also, many of them are old, and not very efficient compared to modern equipment. But it isn’t cost effective to replace them with more modern generators.

Also, the dams themself will start to deteriorate as they age. Repairs or rework on a dam is very expensive. And just not cost effective any more. Especially given the fast-dropping cost of solar power – that’s something that’s really killing off new hydro power.

I, for one, would be an advocate to see a lot of rivers returned to their natural state.

Go to your local city council meetings. I’m not going to do that for you, sorry!

Me too. After reading about the Elwha and Glines Canyon Dam removals, it pisses me off these things were built by private interests, screwed up the whole river ecosystem and local tribes, and decades later the taxpayers have to buy the dams and finance their removal.

But if you haven’t been to my local city council meetings, how can you say with any authority what happens there? How do you know they “think fish are more important than humans” and that they “want water discharged from a sewage treatment plant to be refrigerated to an exact temperature”? Which meetings have you been to(if any) where things like these are said?

No, No, No!

The local city councils are in the position of trying to find funds to PAY for all these “unfunded mandates” so that we can have a “perfect” environment.

If your city council has no problem paying for all this stuff, they they would be a rare city council indeed!

Here, I will help you a bit…

Recently drunken idiots vandalised the only habitat on the planet for the Devils Hole pupfish. There are people who think, ‘So what? A few gallons of bleach, and the problem is solved!’ Yes, let’s exterminate a species so that we don’t have to worry about them. :rolleyes: I don’t know how important the Devils Hole pupfish is to the environment, but it would be a shame to make them extinct just so humans can piss in their pond. In the case of dams, it’s not just one species that is trying to be saved. Often when we ‘try to save an endangered species’ we are actually trying to save an entire ecosystem. Saving one species provides an easy handle for people to grasp. These species are part of a greater food web and serve as an ‘umbrella’ to protect the rest of the system.

‘Who cares? I don’t live there!’ But some people do. And even if they don’t, natural environments provide ‘environmental services’ such as filtering of water, flood prevention, and so on that would cost billions of dollars if they weren’t being provided free. People upstream often do not consider the effects of their actions. For example, take Chesapeake Bay. Oyster fishermen mad their livelihoods there for centuries. But the industry collapsed. Of course overfishing played its part, but the larger problem was the nitrogen runoff from farms upstream that caused eutrophication of the bay. This is good for the phytoplankton, but when they die they sink to the bottom and the bacteria go to work on them. Bacteria consume oxygen, so there is not enough for oysters to live. (i.e., there is a ‘dead zone’.) Oysters are filter feeders. With fewer of them surviving, the problem just gets worse. There are ‘dead zones’ in the Gulf of Mexico and other places around the planet. So we need to be careful when we change environments. Dams are a big change.

Dams provide a reliable source of water, provide recreational opportunities, support species that do not thrive in flowing rivers, and of course provide clean energy. I live in the Pacific Northwest now, where Salmon is King. Much attention is paid to their migrations and their numbers. They are an important species that are harmed by dams. Salmon bring in gobs of revenue, so it’s nice to have them around. Are the fish more important than humans? Without them, many humans up here would make a lot less money. People complain about putting the needs of some obscure fish they’ve never heard of above their desire for a pretty green lawn in the desert, but there are other – commercially viable – species involved too.

Dams have a service life. They prevent nutrient-rich soil from being deposited in flood plains where it can be used in the ecosystem. Instead, these sediments fill up the reservoirs behind the dams and the water becomes shallower. (Up here, 34 million cubic yards of sediment piled up behind dams: 28 million cubic yards behind the Glines Canyon Dam and 6 million cubic yard behind the Elwha Dam.) Eventually the water can become so shallow that it’s not worth making electricity from it. In addition, dams can waste a lot of water. 160 billion gallons of water evaporate out of Lake Powell, behind the Glen Canyon dam, every year. (Link.)

‘But they make clean energy!’ Indeed, they do. More than half of my electricity comes from hydro. (You can see where your electricity comes from here: https://www.epa.gov/energy/power-profiler. Just put in your ZIP code.) We are putting more carbon and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the Earth can absorb. Oceans absorb a lot of carbon, and this is causing acidification that prevents shellfish from making shells, kills coral reefs, increases eutrophication, and so on. We need to stop dumping carbon into the atmosphere. But we also need electricity, and we need more of it. Germany has been extremely successful with its ‘100,000 roofs’ solar power program. Wind power is proven. But we in the United States don’t have the will to ween ourselves from electricity produced by burning fossil fuels, nor the understanding of nuclear power so we won’t be afraid to build more nuclear plants. So here’s the problem: We need to save and restore the environment because biodiversity is important to survival. We also need to increase our electrical production capacity. We also need to severely cut the amount of carbon we’re putting into the atmosphere. That last one is a biggie. As much as I’d like to see rivers return to their pre-industrial state, we need the clean power.

Oh, yeah… We’ve already dammed 98% of the suitable rivers.

None of this supports your assertion that environmentalist (which ones, all of them?) think fish are more important than people. Yes, there may be requests to avoid as much environmental change/damage as possible, but you’re approach seems to be that any request that costs a lot of money to address is unreasonable. That doesn’t seem supported by a link to a relatively unrelated wiki page.