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Posted Mon Jun 20 2011: from
Small hydro could add up to big damage
A belief that 'small' hydropower systems are a source of clean energy with little or no environmental problems is driving the growing interest in mini, micro, and pico hydro systems that generate from less than 5 kilowatts up to 10 megawatts of energy. Hydropower appears to be the cleanest and most versatile of renewable energy sources. But experience shows that optimism about its potential can be misplaced.... By the end of 1970s it had become clear that the very optimistic, almost reverential, attitude towards hydropower projects that had prevailed during the early 1950s was misplaced. These projects damaged the environment as seriously as did fossil-fuelled power projects.... A turbine here or there may not affect the river noticeably; but if we are to use the technology extensively and put turbines in every other waterfall in a river, and make small dams on most of its tributaries or feeder streams, the environmental degradation -- per kilowatt of power generated -- will likely be much higher than that caused by large hydropower systems. The factors that harm a river habitat with large hydropower projects are also at play with small projects: interrupted water flow, barriers to animal movement, water loss from evaporation and loss of biodiversity from the sacrificed portion of river are some examples.
[Read more stories about: Very Scary Tags: water issues, unintended consequences, ecosystem interrelationships

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