Global boom in hydropower underway, more expected this decade

From the University of Copenhagen: Global boom in hydropower expected this decade

An unprecedented boom in hydropower dam construction is underway, primarily in developing countries and emerging economies. While this is expected to double the global electricity production from hydropower, it could reduce the number of our last remaining large free-flowing rivers by about 20 percent and pose a serious threat to freshwater biodiversity. A new database has been developed to support decision making on sustainable modes of electricity production. It is presented today at the international congress Global Challenges: Achieving Sustainability hosted by the University of Copenhagen.

Hydro electric power stationHydro electric power station.

Photo: Yonezawa-Shi, Yamagata, Japan

The intensified demand for electricity from renewable sources has kick-started the hydropower development into a new era: Following a period of a flattening trend, an unprecedented number of dams for electricity production is currently under construction or planned worldwide. However, the boom occurs primarily in developing countries and emerging economies in South America, Southeast Asia and Africa, that also hold some of the world’s most important sites for freshwater biodiversity.

“Hydropower is an integrated part of transitioning to renewable energy and currently the largest contributor of renewable electricity. However, it is vital that hydropower dams do not create a new problem for the biodiversity in the world’s freshwater systems, due to fragmentation and the expected changes in the flow and sediment regime. That is why we have compiled available data on future expected hydropower dams – to form a key foundation for evaluating where and how to build the dams and how to operate them sustainably”, says Prof. Dr. Christiane Zarfl (now Universität Tübingen) who, together with her colleagues, performed the study at the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) in Berlin. She is presenting the database today at the congress Global Challenges: Achieving Sustainability.

Hydropower may double in electricity capacity

Renewables account for 20 percent of the global electricity production today, with hydropower contributing 80 percent of the total share. An expected 3700 major dams may more than double the total electricity capacity of hydropower to 1,700 GW within the next two decades.

Worldmap showing planned dams and dams under construction.Global spatial distribution of future hydropower dams, either under construction (blue dots; 17%) or planned (red dots; 83%).  Credit: Aquatic Sciences (DOI: 10.1007/s00027-014-0377-0).Click on picture to download in full resolution.

Given that all planned dams are realized, China will remain the global leader in hydropower dam construction although their share of total future global hydropower production will decline from currently 31 to 25 percent, due to increases in other parts of the world.

The Amazon and La Plata basins in Brazil will have the largest total number of new dams in South America, whereas the Ganges-Brahmaputra basin (mainly India and Nepal) and the Yangtze basin in China will face the highest dam construction in Asia.

“When building new dams, it is important to follow a systematic management approach that considers the ecological, social, and economic consequences of multiple dams within a river basin”, says Prof. Dr. Klement Tockner, head of IGB, who is leading the Institute´s research activities on sustainable hydropower development.

“We expect to launch the database in BioFresh, the platform for global freshwater biodiversity ( and hope to see our results as a valuable reference basis for scientists and decision makers in supporting  sustainable hydropower development”, says Prof. Dr. Christiane Zarfl.

The full study will be published in the renowned international journal Aquatic Sciences: Research across Boundaries.


Reference: Zarfl C, Lumsdon AE, Berlekamp J, Tydecks L, Tockner K, (in press) A global boom in hydropower dam construction. Aquatic Sciences.

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October 25, 2014 3:22 pm

Building hydropower is an excellent method to achieve the EUs renewables targets. I see a huge building boom in the Balkan peninsula. If hydro can grow to deliver 20 % by 2030 then we won’t face grid collapse from the intermittent and hard to control wind and solar.

Reply to  Fernando Leanme
October 25, 2014 4:33 pm

“All” we lose there are some of the most valuable archaeological sites for the history of mankind. And dams are the jmost ecologically destructive power source we have. They cause extinctions and the life forms killed form methane and carbon dioxide while decomposing. They have been called a climate crime in a You Tube video and others

Otter (ClimateOtter on Twitter)
Reply to  ladylifegrows
October 25, 2014 5:05 pm

Wind turbines and solar panels require destroying habitats and micro-climates. Not to mention, wildlife. Archaeological sites can be gone over pretty thoroughly in the time it takes to build a dam. And while some habitats may be lost, a lot more are created- and dams don’t create shredded tweet, burst bat lungs or solar streamers.

Rhoda R
Reply to  ladylifegrows
October 25, 2014 5:49 pm

All that you say is true, but given the need for abundant energy and the hate against coal and nuclear, there aren’t all that many choices out there are there?

Reply to  ladylifegrows
October 25, 2014 6:38 pm

Carbon dioxide is plant food, so the formation of carbon dioxide ought to be an argument for the construction of dams. As for archaeological sites, not all dams are planned on archaeological sites. That’s a blanket condemnation of useful and commercially viable power-production technology.
I noticed the map doesn’t have a single dot in the US. Kind of reminiscent of the Earth night shot with an almost-completely blacked-out North Korea. Is that the power of the EPA?

Reply to  ladylifegrows
October 25, 2014 6:43 pm

Whoops, should have specified “in the contiguous US.”

Reply to  ladylifegrows
October 25, 2014 10:04 pm

You say there is a YouTube video that doesn’t like this clean, affordable, renewable, power source that creates drinking water reservoirs and lake recreation opportunities?
It must be true then.

M Courtney
Reply to  ladylifegrows
October 26, 2014 1:52 am

ladylifegrows, you are right but you ignore the fundamental advantage that hydropower has over other renewables.
It works reliably.
It can deliver base load.
All power generation has environmental costs.
Personally I wouldn’t support the Severn Barrage but that’s on the cost of the downsides. Most renewables can be opposed on the lack of upsides.

old construction worker
Reply to  ladylifegrows
October 26, 2014 5:15 am

‘They cause extinctions and the life forms killed form methane and carbon dioxide while decomposing.’
Where are the bodies from extinctions?

Reply to  ladylifegrows
October 26, 2014 5:23 am

Complete BS. Greenpeace has been pushing those lies for decades and reality has completely debunked them. Methane emissions from a mature reservoir are no greater than from a healthy mature forest. If there’s the greatest archealogical site EVAH wherever you plan to build a dam (No matter where you are in the world) why hasn’t anyone heard of it? You would think the next tomb of king Tut in a tukish river would have made the news by now, no?
The truth is, building dams creates enormous social and developmental advantages wherever they’re built. Notions of tragic consequences pushed by alarmist groups are pure fiction. Just look at any country that has invested in hydropower. Brazil, China even the US in the 20th Cenutry. Hydro development always goes along with growth and prosperity in leaps and bounds.
The boon provided by Hydro power plants is as strong and stable as with fossil fuel, but without the onus of mining and shipping fuel (or importing fuel). The only limit to hydro is the avilability of good sites. Unfortunately, the US has pretty much exhausted the good sites, with new sites being far more expensive than historic sites, and are often run-on-river, which is less reliable.

Reply to  ladylifegrows
October 26, 2014 12:35 pm

Otter (ClimateOtter on Twitter) @October 25, 2014 at 5:05 pm
“… dams don’t create shredded tweet, burst bat lungs or solar streamers.”
It is mind-boggling. Here, a recent report on bats and wind turbines (H/T Climate Depot).
Let’s kill off slowly reproducing mammals vital to agriculture and the natural balance instead. What a great idea. Environmentalists in favor of wind farms are not environmentalists.

Reply to  ladylifegrows
October 26, 2014 7:31 pm

Far to many posters are giving this ladylifegrows the benefit of the doubt, or are treating their opinion as gospel. A properly designed and constructed dam is far less destructive to the environment the any of the dozens of ways a lake can form naturally on a watercourse. Or are we going to pretend that all natural lakes formed in a way that DIDN’T flood the existing environment?

Reply to  ladylifegrows
October 27, 2014 6:59 am

Yep, we should dismantle every dam in the world. That will make the world a far better place.

Alberta Slim
Reply to  Fernando Leanme
October 26, 2014 7:06 am

OK. I guess then, that we had better kill all the of the beavers [Canada’s symbol]. because all those dams they build are the scourge of mankind, according to you.
Will you, ladylifegrows, join our group to go out into the Canadian wilderness and start blowing up all the beaver dams??

Reply to  Fernando Leanme
October 26, 2014 9:12 am

Par for the course: robbing the future for some 100 years of mediocre benefits at best. The economic (and cultural) detriments of dam building have been analyzed at length, and they are not small.

Reply to  barchester
October 26, 2014 12:01 pm

Barchester, each dam is different. Not only because of the topography, but because of the people. The first question has to do with displacing lots of people. Dams in China have caused massive displacement. Dams elsewhere often displace only a few.
Also we have the question of archaeological sites, and the issues of unique species.
However, you need to realize that hydropower is the savior of the poor housewife and the poor farmer. If electricity doesn’t do our slaving for us, then the poor become slaves, with women and farmers leading the way.
So this is not “mediocre benefits at best”. It is removing the yoke of slavery from humans and putting it on electricity.
As a result, many cultures have concluded even after considering all of the above that the benefits outweigh the costs. This is particularly true because of the low running costs, which allow economical operation at a very low cost to the consumer.
Next, there is no magical hundred-year lifespan. The only thing that limits dam lifespan is siltation. Seems to me that since the dam has cheap electricity, it’s merely a technical problem to pump the silt to where it can be used to grow crops …
In all, the cost/benefit analysis is so hugely skewed with benefits to the poor that opposing it is … well … questionable. I’m sorry, but the fate of some unique lizard that only lives on one fifty-yard stretch of some creek is nothing compared to the benefits to the poor.
Finally, benefits to the poor ARE benefits to the environment. The biggest threat to the environment worldwide is the fact that half the planet lives on less than US$3 per day … see Haiti as a prominent example.

Reply to  Fernando Leanme
October 26, 2014 6:53 pm

My insufferable Greenie Brother was arrested lying in front of a bulldozer in Tasmania to stop the Franklin dam. A good thing in my opinion (stopping the dam not the arrest), but it doesn’t stop me detesting him any less. I wonder whether he’ll speak out against this Hydro boom now? Bet he doesn’t…

Ian L. McQueen
October 25, 2014 3:22 pm

Minor typo: “University of Copehagen” should be “University of Copenhagen”.
Ian M

Paul Drahn
October 25, 2014 3:25 pm

Interesting how some people get worked up over dams, ” it is vital that hydropower dams do not create a new problem for the biodiversity in the world’s freshwater systems,” and are silent on the problems created by wind mills and solar furnaces.

Reply to  Paul Drahn
October 26, 2014 6:06 am

Dams help slow sea level rise! Hooray. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

October 25, 2014 3:31 pm

Nasty dangerous stuff, hydro power.
In fact, hydro power is responsible for several orders of magnitude more deaths than nuclear power. Take the Banqiao Dam disaster, for example:
According to the Hydrology Department of Henan Province, in the province, approximately 26,000 people died[14] from flooding and another 145,000 died during subsequent epidemics and famine. In addition, about 5,960,000 buildings collapsed, and 11 million residents were affected. Unofficial estimates of the number of people killed by the disaster have run as high as 230,000 people
Or the Sichuan earthquake, perhaps:
BEIJING — Nearly nine months after a devastating earthquake in Sichuan Province, China, left 80,000 people dead or missing, a growing number of American and Chinese scientists are suggesting that the calamity was triggered by a four-year-old reservoir built close to the earthquake’s geological fault line.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  catweazle666
October 25, 2014 4:24 pm

Maybe they need US or Canadian designers to build them for them. The James Bay project in Quebec is operating smooth as you please and supplies much of New York and eastern Canada’s power. It’s 16GW and realization of the full plan will make it the largest in the world at 27GW. Oh, and big electricity users can get it for 3.8 cents a kWh. What in the world could the University of Copenhagen know about hydro power!! They probably study it so they can protest against it effectively. Fish ladders and other tech for getting the fish up stream are old tech and the fish even get it!! By the way, the fishiing and hunting in the region is spectacular.

old construction worker
Reply to  catweazle666
October 26, 2014 4:54 am

The rest of the story:
Banqiao Dam
Officially, the dam failure was a natural as opposed to man-made disaster, with government sources placing an emphasis on the amount of rainfall as opposed to poor engineering and construction. The People’s Daily has maintained that the dam was designed to survive a once-in-1000-years flood (300 mm of rainfall per day) but a once-in-2000-years flood occurred in August 1975, following the collision of Typhoon Nina and a cold front. The typhoon was blocked for two days before its direction ultimately changed from northeastward to west.[3] As a result of this near stationary thunderstorm system, more than a year’s rain fell within 24 hours (new records were set, at 189.5 mm rainfall per hour and 1060 mm per day, exceeding the average annual precipitation of about 800 mm),[4] which weather forecasts failed to predict.[

old construction worker
Reply to  catweazle666
October 26, 2014 5:06 am

The rest of the story:
Sichuan Province
“The earthquake research community outside and inside China has widely accepted the notion that the May 12 Wenchuan earthquake was a huge natural disaster caused by massive crustal movement, because no reservoir triggered-quake with a magnitude eight has ever occurred in history,” said Pan Jiazheng, an expert in hydroengineering, according to a translation published by Probe International.

Reply to  catweazle666
October 26, 2014 5:18 am

Nasty, dangerous Hydro, Dirty and dangerous nuclear, nasty emissions and tremors from fracking, LNG pushing up prices, Shale gas worse than coal…
Gee, this is all starting to sound really orchestrated.

October 25, 2014 3:31 pm

Funnily enough – this is quite interesting to me as I have completed I think 3 or 4 investigations for small hydropower generator plants in the UK over the last year or two. Considering I had never done one before (in the previous 23+ years) that kinda matches with this idea of increased interest! One other thing to note, all of them have been for small archimedes screw type installations next to ‘old’ weirs and mill races.

October 25, 2014 3:35 pm

Ya just can’t win, can ya ?

Reply to  u.k.(us)
October 26, 2014 6:10 am

Like I said damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

October 25, 2014 3:39 pm

Here in the Pacific Northwest we are experiencing a burgeoning industry in demolishing hydropower dams. When the geniuses passed laws mandating renewable energy sources their legal definition specifically excluded hydro as renewable. Then the watermelons went ahead with their political agenda, building wind turbines and doubling the minimum wage. Near my house, hardly a week goes by without a Bald Eagle being sliced up by these behemoths, as hydro dams get diced by the wrecking ball. Yet I can still get ten years for posessing a single eagle feather.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Michael Gersh
October 25, 2014 3:56 pm

What doesn’t make sense is usually called non-sense. But for some it “feels good”.

Reply to  Michael Gersh
October 25, 2014 4:01 pm

They’re building tons of wind turbines near the bald eagle flight areas in NW Iowa, too. Lots of people with jobs making the electrical rates go up. I haven’t heard anything official on eagle impact, but it has to be there.

Reply to  Michael Gersh
October 25, 2014 4:11 pm

It is expected that British Columbia, Canada, will start construction of the 1.3 GW Site-C Hydro Dam early next year.

Reply to  Michael Gersh
October 25, 2014 5:05 pm

“Yet I can still get ten years for posessing a single eagle feather”
It so tragic that nothing can be done to save them. I often find smaller raptor in almost perfect condition along the roadsides near my home. I’ve tried several times, but there seems to be no way for an individual to get a permit to have them mounted, I hate to see them wasted. We’ll stop to admire their beauty, morn their loss, then leave them for the scavengers.

Reply to  Michael Gersh
October 25, 2014 8:26 pm

Oregon’s current governor, when previously governor, favored breaching Snake River dams, if not the bigger ones on the Columbia.
But, then during his first two terms, Kitz did oppose windmills because red diggers (insanely prolific Columbia ground squirrels) might suffer, which is why they went into Washington first. But no more.

Reply to  milodonharlani
October 25, 2014 9:33 pm

Good, Tear it down and build a nuclear plant.

old construction worker
Reply to  milodonharlani
October 26, 2014 5:23 am

“Good, Tear it down and build a nuclear plant.”
That’s what started the war on CO2 thanks to Margret Thatcher. Bust the coal union and to promote nuclear power.

Alberta Slim
Reply to  Michael Gersh
October 26, 2014 7:09 am

A strong effort to vote the watermelons out is the answer. IMO.

Joel O'Bryan
October 25, 2014 3:47 pm

Note the map shows no “planned construction” dots on the US lower 48 (one under construction in Ca). Lower-48 US hydro-generation capacity was essentially built-out in the 20th Century. Some on the Alaska coast, but any significant hydrodams are being firmly resisted by the environmental groups.
Yes they like the idea of renewables, but it’s always NIMBY. That applies whether it’s unsightly Cape Wind’s off-shore turbines, bird-frying solar thermal in the US Southwest, or fish chomping-spawn blocking hydroelectric projects.
For info on the Alaska hydro project:
The project manager for Susitna-Watana Project said his team plans to apply for the dam’s license with FERC in September 2015.
But that has likely been delayed, see:

Gunga Din
October 25, 2014 3:50 pm

While this is expected to double the global electricity production from hydropower, it could reduce the number of our last remaining large free-flowing rivers by about 20 percent and pose a serious threat to freshwater biodiversity.

So hydro might be a threat to the three-spotted darter when there are millions of the two-spotted darter in the next stream over.
People and their need to live are such a blight. /sarc

Gunga Din
Reply to  Gunga Din
October 25, 2014 3:51 pm

Mods! Messed the end of the blockquote. Sorry.

Doug Proctor
October 25, 2014 3:53 pm

And the eco-green will be happy…
It must be frustrating when people listen to you and then do the wrong thing.

Coach Springer
October 25, 2014 4:02 pm

“Don’t they know that those reservoirs will cause earthquakes?,” he asked with all the concern of a brainwashed anti-fracker. And then he thought of the added weight and subsidence and totally wet his pants. Maybe they should just burn coal. It’s quite clean and what isn’t, is manageable. Although another few years of drought and they’ll be loving dams and hating the delta smelt

george e. smith
October 25, 2014 4:09 pm

Well is there any possibility that hydro dam systems can be made “self bailing ” ??
silt wise that is.
As part of a water storage system, hydro, might be more eco-friendly. I have often wondered why the river has to run through the hydro lake, rather than have the lake off to the side of the river.
Just wondering.

Reply to  george e. smith
October 25, 2014 4:31 pm

The river where most of the water is, is in the bigger valley where the volume is. It would be difficult to move that water to a side stream.
If the dam is to be used for flood control or for dry weather stream augmentation there has to be as much volume as possible. Some volume empty, waiting for the next flood. Some full, available for the next dry spell. Even so, the largest of dams can retain only around 1 inch of runoff from their drainage area.

Philip Bradley
Reply to  george e. smith
October 25, 2014 4:47 pm

Some hydro projects work like this, Niagra Falls comes to mind.
I’m no expert, but it would be impractical where the dam is needed to create sufficient head of water. The alternative would be to dig a new channel that could be dammed, leaving the existing channel as is, but with reduced water flow. Too expensive in most cases.

Reply to  Philip Bradley
October 25, 2014 6:00 pm

Thats exactly what is done in Ethiopia over the whispering falls.

Reply to  george e. smith
October 25, 2014 7:01 pm
October 25, 2014 4:21 pm

Build nuclear, very small footprint compared to other energy sources.
I apologize, how naive of me.

Reply to  nc
October 25, 2014 4:36 pm

As a civilization, doesn’t it make sense to leave nature to nature, and have our artificial power requirements met by artificial power plants? Yes, we need to dam the rivers to ensure an adequate reservoir for our water requirements, and in many cases they can use the same dams for electricity generation. But for purely electrical power, build small, relatively efficient, and extremely safe nuclear plants.
(Those who don’t believe they’re safe are just not paying attention)

Reply to  CodeTech
October 25, 2014 9:36 pm

It’s all emotion and politics.

Reply to  nc
October 25, 2014 9:35 pm


October 25, 2014 4:28 pm
lyn roberts
October 25, 2014 4:34 pm

I was brought up in a country that has only one source of power, Hydro, and the rivers still run, the only reason river would not run, is lack of rain, or lack of snow, in central north island. example the Waikato River in New Zealand, has 8 Dams over 425km’s, and these supply a portion of the power demand for the north island. Also the Lakes behind the Dam walls are open for power boating, fishing, and various sporting activities. You have only to stand at the shore of one of these lakes and observe for yourself the ducks, fish & eels rising to feed, bugs & insects, no different from the natural lake Taupo. (natural lake Taupo – err live Volcano)

Reply to  lyn roberts
October 25, 2014 6:03 pm

Indeed, a submerged volcano and was one of the largest erruptions on earth, several times larger than Kracatoa.

george e. smith
Reply to  lyn roberts
October 25, 2014 8:37 pm

And yet when I drive the Great South Road, I still see the Waikato flowing about the way it looked 60 years ago.
I’m happy to read that you can still find nice eels to catch, instead of all those foreign trash fish from California, and such places.

October 25, 2014 4:36 pm

The same people who are willing to overlook millions of birds getting chopped to death by windmills, get’s their panties in a wad over a dam on a river.

Reply to  MarkW
October 25, 2014 5:57 pm

‘Cause fishies are more lovable?

October 25, 2014 4:38 pm

If you want renewable, go with coal, oil and natural gas. Those turn into renewable things like wood when they are burned–and increase the carrying capacity of the Earth in the meantime. They are superrenewable.
Only fossils make more life on Earth.

October 25, 2014 4:44 pm

The scope of hydro power will always be severely limited – because it simply isn’t energy dense enough to make a difference.
Consider the following – how much water does it take to run a 2Kw home heater for 1 day?
Assume your hydro generator is powered by a 100ft drop (30m).
The energy required to run the heater
= power x time
= 2000 watts x 86400 seconds in a day
= 172800000 joules
How much energy does our 30m drop produce?
energy = force x distance = mass x acceleration x distance
We know the energy, acceleration (gravity) and distance, lets solve for mass.
172800000 joules = mass x 9.8 m/s^2 x 30m
mass = 172800000 / (9.8 x 30) = 587,755 kilograms of water.
To power ONE household heater for a day, you to send 587 tons of water through your hydroelectric power generator.
There simply isn’t enough water in all the reservoirs of the world to make a major difference to the world’s energy needs.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
October 25, 2014 5:05 pm

However water is very heavy.
Take for example the Niagara river. It has a flow rate of 204,700 cu. ft /sec
At 62 lbs per cu ft. this is 6345 tons per second.

And it falls 50 meters instead of 30.
That’s enough to power about 1 million of your 2kw heaters

Reply to  juan
October 25, 2014 5:43 pm

Yes, but there are 7 billion people. Assuming everyone uses a heater worth of electricity, for all their daily needs (including transport), you need to find 7000 Niagara rivers to power the world with hydro power.

Reply to  juan
October 25, 2014 5:57 pm

Almost 16% of the world’s electricity is generated with hydro power.
3,427 terawatt-hours of electricity production in 2010 can be classified as making a ” major difference to the world’s energy needs.”

Not to mention that that it is a growing source.

Reply to  juan
October 25, 2014 6:01 pm

Mr Worrall….
I suggest you read what Mr Philip Bradley has to say regarding a “major difference to the world’s energy needs.”

Reply to  Eric Worrall
October 25, 2014 5:25 pm

Well said. Hydroelectric has its place, but it’s got limitations.

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  Eric Worrall
October 25, 2014 5:57 pm

Ahh Eric ya wet blanket,
You spoiled my planetary hydro power fantasy with all that engineering. Kill joy!
I guess its back to nukes.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
October 25, 2014 6:37 pm

Exacrly right.
And it’s an ecologically devastating and wrong headed solution – damming free flowing rivers.
To wit, “In 2012, the “average” nuclear power plant in the United States generated about 11.8 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh). There were 65 nuclear power plants with 104 operating nuclear reactors that generated a total of 769 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), or 19% of the nation’s electricity.”
Our energy “problems” are political and based on emotion rather than fact, science and enginerring.

Grey Lensman
Reply to  Eric Worrall
October 25, 2014 7:56 pm

Thats not the water power but only gravity. Double the speed and you quadruple the power output. Again a simple known formula. try it Eric.

Reply to  Grey Lensman
October 25, 2014 9:50 pm

The initial flow rate is like adding a bit of extra height. After a 30m free fall drop, each kilo of water has 30 x 9.8 = 2940 joules of kinetic energy.
Backing out velocity
E = 1/2 m v^2
V = (E x 2) ^ 0.5
= 77m / s
= 170 miles / hour
You would need a pretty impressive initial flow rate to make much difference to that figure. And I’m not making any allowance for efficiency losses.

Reply to  Grey Lensman
October 26, 2014 12:58 pm

v = sqrt(2*g*y) = 24 m/s = 54 mph
You missed a decimal place. 30 X 9.8 ~= 30 X 10 = 300

Reply to  Eric Worrall
October 25, 2014 10:46 pm

That is only 6.7 l/s, which is barely a trickle in most streams. However you forgot efficiency losses. I got 7.3 l/s for a kw average output. Maybe that is average for USA. In NZ it is 1.4 kW average and there are many countires that are less than that.

Grey Lensman
Reply to  Eric Worrall
October 26, 2014 5:23 am

Example 5: Calculate the K.E. of a 2000.-kg car that is moving (a) at 10.0m/s, (b) 20.0 m/s, and (c) 30.0 m/s.
Solution: (a) (K.E.)1 = (1/2)( = 100,000 (kg m/s2)m = 100,000 J (3 sig. fig.)
(b) (K.E.)2 = (1/2)( = 400,000 (kg m/s2)m = 400,000 J (3 sig. fig.)
(c) (K.E.)3 = (1/2)( = 900,000 (kg m/s2)m = 900,000 J (3 sig. fig.)
As can be seen, the car’s kinetic energy varies with the square of velocity (v2).

Reply to  Eric Worrall
October 28, 2014 12:06 pm

You forgot the losses….
100 feet head @ 100 gpm (10 garden hoses) gives conservatively one KwHr on a small scale.
Regardless, hydro power goes along with flood control and water storage for irrigation, so why not take advantage of the all the benefits?
Cost/benefit … the definitions change very fast when there is a direct individual impact to those who interpret the costs and benefits. We may have to wait until the power goes out to get past this crap.

October 25, 2014 4:52 pm

This must be like whack-a-mole for the greenies. They’re against nuclear, so energy production turns to coal. They’re against coal, so energy production considers hydro-electric. They’re against hydro-electric so … . What’s the solution? Oh, right; there is a final solution …

Reply to  noaaprogrammer
October 25, 2014 6:25 pm

What’s the solution?
Nuclear, hands down and tightly regulated.
Hydro and wind are an enviromental nightmare as are solar farms. Coal is often not so great, eg. mountaintop removal in my neck of the woods.

old construction worker
Reply to  RichardD
October 26, 2014 6:04 am

“Nuclear, hands down and tightly regulated.”
Hmmm. let see. First you have mine it, process it, then do something with the waste. There is a place in Utah to store the waste, but it sits empty. Since I have helped pay for it, through higher rates, Why does it sit empty?

Mark Luhman
Reply to  RichardD
October 26, 2014 11:08 am

Old construction worker, How much waste do you think there will be? All the nuclear waste in the United States so far would occupy on football field to a nine foot height, the long term waste would occupy one yard of the hundred. To top that off we have reactor technology that would dramatically reduce that waste, unfortunately Carter cancel the breeder reactor program and Clinton canceler IFR project, When IFR runs that reactor produced virtually no waste. The sad reality the best place to place any nuclear waste is in a salt mine, Water is the enemy in any long term storage plan and salt mine exist do to a lack of water and if they are breached the self heal. Uranium mines are low impact definitely not like copper or iron. As far as coal mine go i could take multiple pictures of the North Dakota farmland and you would be hard press to tell me what had been mined and what had not.

October 25, 2014 5:05 pm

The more Warmists scream about global warming the more they get of what they don’t want. See Germany nuclear, solar, wind and coal headaches.

October 25, 2014 5:07 pm

Canada will be adding about 14.5 mega watts of hydro power in the next decade or so.

Reply to  rabbit
October 25, 2014 5:15 pm

Ur, 14,500 megawatts.
Math is hard.

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  rabbit
October 25, 2014 5:58 pm

I think 16 GW of nuke too.

Otter (ClimateOtter on Twitter)
October 25, 2014 5:10 pm

I get the feeling from some comments that the greens are NOT happy tonight.

Mike H.
October 25, 2014 5:30 pm

I like watching water fall in carefully planned cascades.

michael hart
October 25, 2014 5:37 pm

Almost OT, but am I the only person to chuckle over a report about expanding hydropower from Copenhagen? The whole country of Denmark averages only 100 feet above sea level. A bit like a global ski report from Kuwait.

Reply to  michael hart
October 25, 2014 7:59 pm

Maybe tidal turbine tubes in the Skagerrak & Kattegat?

Reply to  milodonharlani
October 26, 2014 2:04 am

Not much tidal flow there.

Reply to  michael hart
October 26, 2014 12:39 am

Don’t forget that the only reason danish wind-power works is that they can use Swedish and Norwegian hydropower as backup. This is something danish greenies keep very mum about.

Reply to  tty
October 26, 2014 12:16 pm

Thank you. The first and only time I passed through Copenhagen I saw all those windmills standing idle and I wondered what the back-up was. Now, I know.

Paul Westhaver
October 25, 2014 5:37 pm

Gosh, I love hydro power… natures gift to mankind.

Reply to  Paul Westhaver
October 25, 2014 8:21 pm

Cool, for every dam built or mountaintop removed we build a wind or solar farm, or nuclear power plant in your back yard.

Reply to  RichardD
October 26, 2014 12:42 am

Very true. Without backup no wind or solar farms, and hydropower is the best backup there is. Very reliable, very fast reacting, highly controllable and power can be stored until needed (=dam).

October 25, 2014 5:44 pm

Hydro power in the cooler latitudes can be very useful – however I think Central African countries would be much better off building coal fired power stations instead. I think there was a couple of studies done on the quality of water in some of the new African reservoirs that showed that limiting the flow and having large bodies of still water was damaging to the region around the river and dangerous to drink. It also highlighted the fact that the ‘environmental impact assessments’ that the dam builders have to compile are a complete joke!

Philip Bradley
October 25, 2014 5:58 pm

According to wikipedia, hydro accounts for 16% of global electricity generation – 3,427 terrawatts (2010).
According to the source below, global hydro potential is 14,500 tw. Which would be over half of current consumption.
Coal generates 40% of current electricity globally. Hydro could eliminate 80% of coal power plants (ignoring transmission and a few other things).
The comments above that hydro has limited potential are wrong, and I assume ideologically motivated.
In Africa in particular, there is a straight up choice between hydro and coal for grid generation

October 25, 2014 6:05 pm

As a hydropower expert here in New Zealand, I was interested in noting that the article showed five dams planned for the South Island of New Zealand. Of the five shown, one is probably going ahead, but it is for irrigation, not hydro power. The other 4 indicated were all abandoned some years ago. That suggested that this paper is well out of date, but when I looked for the actual paper I find this:
Received: 8th October 2014. Accepted 15th October 2014.
That must be the shortest Pal reviewed paper ever.

Reply to  Jantar
October 25, 2014 6:42 pm

Same goes for some of the proposed projects in Chile & Argentina shown on the map.

October 25, 2014 6:25 pm


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Reply to  fobdangerclose
October 25, 2014 6:38 pm

OK, trouble!
Just got off a twitter feeding with Mikie Mann.
He has a computer code on this and his data from water gene code that shows water when agitated as in
a hydro dam and a turbine all the CO2 adsorbed for all time will be released and that his settled science shows a to rise of avg. World wide of 20 F and sea rise of 60 feet.
Stop now or you will all die!

Reply to  fobdangerclose
October 25, 2014 6:46 pm

Where do we send the checks Mike.

October 25, 2014 6:26 pm

Eric Worrall October 25, 2014 at 4:44 pm

The scope of hydro power will always be severely limited – because it simply isn’t energy dense enough to make a difference.

There simply isn’t enough water in all the reservoirs of the world to make a major difference to the world’s energy needs.

Globally, hydro supplies about 7% of global energy consumption. This is far from a trivial amount of energy, and if it had to be supplied from fossil fuels it would represent a huge cost.
However, for many countries the hydropower contributions are much higher. About a fifth of the countries get 20% or more of their energy from hydro. For Norway, it is 65%.
Finally, the beauty of hydro is that operating costs are extremely low, and are not tied to rises in fossil fuel costs. This means that hydro can supply cheap energy to poor individuals and countries in an economical way that no other energy source can begin to equal.
So I fear that your claim runs aground on a reef of facts, facts which show that hydro in many cases and many places makes a major difference, particularly in the lives of the poor.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
October 25, 2014 7:24 pm

Let’s trade, Willis. For every dam you advocate, how about you give me one giant wind farm in one of your sailing grounds. Deal?

Reply to  RichardD
October 25, 2014 9:06 pm

What do you have against birds & bats?

Reply to  RichardD
October 25, 2014 9:27 pm

@ milodonharlani
What do you have against the people living on and near rivers.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
October 26, 2014 1:33 am

Seems we may be mixing apples with oranges?
For hydro to reduce current fossil fuel use it has to supply existing end users.
How many of the planned dams are going to provide new users?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
October 26, 2014 6:15 am

If it is as cheap as you say, then I was wrong Willis – thank you for correcting me. Even if hydro only produces a seed from which an economy can grow, then it makes a difference.

October 25, 2014 6:39 pm

You might think that the Green Shirts would support hydro as they do wind & solar, but you’d be wrong. Apparently fish which might suffer from dams are more important to them than are birds & bats being slaughtered wholesale by windmills & solar panels.
Even the otherwise rational Chileans have scrapped a major hydro project over environmental concerns:
Another large proposed project can’t go ahead because Doug Tompkins, co-founder of North Face & ESPRIT clothing companies, has bought up much of Chilean & Argentine Patagonia to preserve it from development. That’s OK, but small scale hydro projects can actually improve habitat for many species. Apparently these are verboten by Green Shirts, too.

Reply to  milodonharlani
October 25, 2014 9:23 pm

Give me a break. GO Tomkins!
HYDRO is completely disruptive to the environment. Why don’t you first make like an amoeba and split – atoms. Hydro is lazy. Nuclear is it….

Alan Robertson
Reply to  milodonharlani
October 26, 2014 5:47 am

The answer to the Doug Tompkins problem is called Public Domain.

October 25, 2014 6:53 pm

Eric Worrall October 25, 2014 at 4:44 pm
The scope of hydro power will always be severely limited – because it simply isn’t energy dense enough to make a difference.
Of course it makes a difference, it just depends on where and for who. (whom?).
If you have a waterway suitable for a hydro dam in the area that you need power, it makes sense. Coal isn’t so severely limited as water by your argument, but what if you have no coal in the area, but you do have a river suitable for a hydro dam. Does it then not make sense?
Not to mention that with the World Bank refusing to lend money to third world countries for building coal fired power plants forces a lot of them to consider hydro even if it isn’t optimal, simply because they can fund the project even though coal would make more sense.

Reply to  davidmhoffer
October 25, 2014 9:09 pm

Whom, 🙂

October 25, 2014 7:55 pm

Somewhat related, pumped storage hydro (PSH):
This is generally old school technology. PSH can work if the price differential between peak and low demand is high enough. It can work on the economics if the price differential is high enough. It may be justified looking at only conventional power generation while also justified for renewables. While we may think PSH is inefficient, a white elephant, Dominion Generation (traded on the NYSE) thought otherwise:
PSH also has a very short windup time when its upper reservoir is filled, allowing to provide quick backup power if another plant has to go offline suddenly.

Reply to  Ragnaar
October 26, 2014 2:23 pm

It is cheaper to build a new hydro dam and let the sun do the pumping. Unless of course the output can be labelled green and subsidised.

October 25, 2014 8:22 pm

Fortunately, the Chattooga in SC/GA and a few other rivers in the southeast escaped the dam builders, You may have seen the movie filmed there in the 70’s…Deliverance. I paddled it first in 79 and it was awesome. It still is…

Reply to  RichardD
October 26, 2014 12:50 pm

The dams do not stop you from “shooting the ‘hooch'”.

J. Philip Peterson
October 25, 2014 9:02 pm

That’s what California should be doing. They can incorporate fish ladders if necessary.
As Forrest Gump says “stupid is as stupid does” If CA wants to have more electricity and more water reserves, they’ll have to do this. Let’s face it, wind and solar ain’t gunna cut it CA.

Reply to  J. Philip Peterson
October 25, 2014 9:08 pm

Exactly, If you want hydro, let’s do so first in CA, say the Smith River and then more hydro in MA, NY, CT, NJ. After we dam their few remaining free flowing rivers, by all means lets also do wind farms in Nantucket, Long Island Sound, the Maine coast (everywhere), and especially the Chesapeake near Washington, but most importantly in San Francisco Bay. It’s windy there. Let’s build lots of wind machines first in SF. That will help fuel THOSE PEOPLE on the east and west coasts.

Grey Lensman
October 25, 2014 9:48 pm

the very first hydroelectric scheme built in 1878 is still operational and indeed is being augmented and upgraded;. It also lit light bulbs long before edison.

Leo Smith
October 25, 2014 11:51 pm

Hydropower is an integrated part of transitioning to renewable energy
And tractor production in the Ukraine is up by 40% …
All energy production has a downside. How come the Green tendency is always to pick the most environmentally damaging one?

October 26, 2014 1:51 am

One thing that has always puzzled me about the climate tin-foil hat brigade and their obsession with reducing energy consumption is why they ignore the obvious means of reducing energy use.
In the UK we call it double summer time. (GMT +2)
Not one green organisation or individual has ever proposed it. I wonder why?

old construction worker
Reply to  fretslider
October 26, 2014 5:47 am

Wouldn’t you love to own an electrical plant. It’s the only industry which wants you to use less of their product, tell you it will save you money and then turn to the “government” to raise prices because they are not selling enough product. What a scam.

October 26, 2014 4:19 am

There is growing realisation among developing countries that the global green agenda is a racist agenda aimed at stopping development in its tracks. This lies behind for instance the fightback by India against the arch eco-imperialists Greenpeace. Historic grievances and inferiority complex related to colonial-imperialist times are a large part of what lies behind for instance Islamic extremism. There is a danger that if environmental politics revives the colonial interference of the past then this could exacerbate cultural reactions such as Islamic radicalisation.

Reply to  phlogiston
October 26, 2014 2:29 pm

They are also realising that climate summits promise many billions in adaptive aid, but somehow never deliver. Suckers, money up front please.

Martin 457
October 26, 2014 7:56 am

The scouring of landscapes in floods is why most dam’s are built, power is secondary. Let’s keep our landscapes and protect them from floods. It can be payed for with power generation.

October 26, 2014 8:42 am

I live in The sierras in California where hydro provides 14.5% of our electricity. The reservoirs that were created to make electricity and store water, in my mind, are fantastic. They bring biodiversity to those areas, they give recreation and joy to many thousands who visit them and the down stream rivers are fine, even better now that flow and temperature can be somewhat regulated.
Some sections of river are flooded and it changed the environment there, but around these lakes even more animals thrive. I perceive very little downside if these damns are thoughtfully conceived.
Yes, I know that is a big ‘if’ in many countries.

October 26, 2014 12:20 pm

I was lucky enough to be nearby one of these, from this same dam. It was 35 years ago and leaves an impression still.
The video doesn’t do it justice (I was on the opposite side):

old construction worker
October 26, 2014 5:48 pm

“To top that off we have reactor technology that would dramatically reduce that waste, unfortunately Carter cancel the breeder reactor program and Clinton canceler IFR project, When IFR runs that reactor produced virtually no waste. ”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against nuclear power.
Why would two progress socialist be against both dams and nuclear? (Sorry, it is Nevada not Utah that has the empty storage facility.)

October 26, 2014 7:07 pm

Two things I noticed from the map, Conus has none and if all that are planed worldwide are completed Global sea levels should fall. All them dams will hold a lot of water.
Any calculations on estimated water capacity??

October 26, 2014 7:51 pm

Not all hydro requires big dams. “Run of River” hydro projects feature head instead of storage, so there is a different set of pros and cons. Switzerland is a leader in this field:

Hydropower accounts for around 56% of domestic electricity production. Today there are 556 hydropower plants in Switzerland (each with a capacity of at least 300 kW). Collectively, they produce around 35,830 gigawatt hours (GWh) every year, 47% of which comes from run-of-river plants, 49% from storage power plants, and around 4% from pumped storage power plants.

October 27, 2014 2:23 am

Hydro is great, New Zealand (NZ) is supplied by it in bundles, and yet has some of the most expensive power in the world. I used to live with someone who used modelling to calculate dam shift in and earthquake. When I was looking to buy a rural propertly in NZ I was looking for a property with a stream, nearly got there. I found that, for my situation, a small ~300mm turbine with a drop of ~2m would provide all power needs.
Ethiopia is now building the largest hydro project in Africa, which has downstream countries a bit “worried”.

October 27, 2014 9:31 am

For domestic use, Micro Hydro is the way to go.
Had a 350 watt water wheel that won hands down against a 1.5kw wind thingy. Ran 24/365.
Maybe not ideal for vast metropoli but for us country folk, perfect.
On the other hand, if you retrofitted the waste pipes in tower blocks with turbines…………..

more soylent green!
October 27, 2014 10:53 am

There’s nothing with so much practical application that environmental luddites can’t find someway to demonize it. But talk about the real-world drawbacks and shortfalls of their two favorite, “free” and “limitless” energy sources — solar and wind and it falls on deaf ears. “See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil” is virtually the green motto regarding wind and solar.

more soylent green!
October 27, 2014 10:55 am

Hydro can also be used for energy storage by pumping water into small reservoirs and catch basins during times of low demand and letting it flow through turbines during times of peak demand. The water can be pumped uphill using wind and solar, as well, if you so desire.

October 28, 2014 11:47 pm

Finally … some common sense. But hey … this is going to anger Greenpeace and WWF and all those other eco-activists who are totally against dams. Just watch the ‘tree huggers’ come out in protest.
Australia has plans for more dams after the debacle of wasting many billions of dollars building costly desalination plants by former Green/Labor governments (since booted out) that are not providing water but will cost ratepayers for many decades to come.

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