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Posts Tagged ‘hydropower’

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Reports the
Stanford News, “A new agreement brings together hydropower and river conservation communities to fight climate change while restoring and sustaining rivers.”

I love getting tips on blog-worthy topics. This week, Earle sent an article from the Stanford News about a truce between environmentalists and hydropower companies, a promising rapprochement. People on opposing sides of a critical issue working quietly together to find common ground.

Devon Ryan wrote, “A dialogue organized by Stanford that brought together environmental organizations, hydropower companies, investors, government agencies and universities has resulted in an important new agreement to help address climate change by advancing both the renewable energy and storage benefits of hydropower and the environmental and economic benefits of healthy rivers.”

The New York Times also covered the peacemaking. Here is Brad Plumer on the topic: “The industry that operates America’s hydroelectric dams and several environmental groups announced an unusual agreement Tuesday to work together to get more clean energy from hydropower while reducing the environmental harm from dams, in a sign that the threat of climate change is spurring both sides to rethink their decades-long battle over a large but contentious source of renewable power.

“The United States generated about 7 percent of its electricity last year from hydropower, mainly from large dams built decades ago, such as the Hoover Dam, which uses flowing water from the Colorado River to power turbines. But while these facilities don’t emit planet-warming carbon dioxide, the dams themselves have often proved ecologically devastating, choking off America’s once-wild rivers and killing fish populations.

“So, over the past 50 years, conservation groups have rallied to block any large new dams from being built, while proposals to upgrade older hydropower facilities or construct new water-powered energy-storage projects have often been bogged down in lengthy regulatory disputes over environmental safeguards. …

“In a joint statement, industry groups and environmentalists said they would collaborate on a set of specific policy measures that could help generate more renewable electricity from dams already in place, while retrofitting many of the nation’s 90,000 existing dams to be safer and less ecologically damaging.

“The two sides also said they would work together to accelerate the removal of older dams that are no longer needed, in order to improve the health of rivers. More than 1,000 dams nationwide have already been torn down in recent decades.

“The statement, the result of two years of quiet negotiations, was signed by the National Hydropower Association, an industry trade group, as well as environmental groups including American Rivers, the World Wildlife Fund and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Another influential organization, The Nature Conservancy, listed itself as a ‘participant,’ signaling that it was not prepared to sign the full statement but would stay engaged in the ongoing dialogue over hydropower policies.

“Bob Irvin, the president of American Rivers, which has long highlighted the harm that dams cause to the nation’s waterways, said that growing concern over global warming had caused some environmentalists to reassess their longstanding opposition to hydropower. …

Mr. Irvin emphasized that his group would still oppose any effort to build new dams on rivers. But that still left plenty of room for compromise.

“As an example, he pointed to the Penobscot River in Maine, where environmentalists, energy companies and the Penobscot Indian Nation reached a landmark agreement in 2004 to upgrade several dams in the river basin while raising money to remove two other dams that had blocked fish from migrating inland for more than a century. The result: The hydropower companies on the Penobscot ended up producing at least as much clean electricity as before, while endangered Atlantic salmon have returned to the rivers. (For more on that, read an article I acquired for my former magazine, here.) …

“Said Malcolm Woolf, president of the National Hydropower Association, ‘We’re now willing to talk about removing uneconomic dams, and environmentalists are no longer talking about all hydropower being bad.’

“Energy experts have said that adding more hydropower could provide a useful tool in the fight against climate change. While wind turbines and solar panels are becoming more widespread, they don’t run all the time, and hydroelectricity can offer a backstop as utilities clean up their electrical grids. …

“ ‘We’re not talking about the Hoover Dams of old,’ said Jose Zayas, a former Energy Department official who oversaw the study. ‘There have been some big technological advances that now let us produce more energy in a much more sustainable way.’ Some companies are designing new turbines that allow fish to pass safely through, while others are looking at ways to reduce oxygen depletion in the water caused by dams.

“One particularly promising approach is to build more facilities known as pumped hydro storage, an old technology that involves connecting two reservoirs of water, one at a higher altitude than the other. When there’s surplus electricity on the grid, these facilities use that power to pump water from the lower reservoir to the higher one. When electricity is needed, such as during lulls in wind or solar power, the water flows back downhill, spinning a turbine to generate electricity.”

More at the New York Times, here. And you can read Devon Ryan’s Stanford News interview with “Dan Reicher, a former U.S. assistant secretary of energy, and board member of the conservation group American Rivers, who launched and helped lead the meetings,” here.

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