Scientists ‘Tantalised’ by Draining Every Hydropower Dam in The US For Solar Panels

From Science Alert


31 AUG 2019

If all the hydro-power dams in the United States were removed and replaced with solar panels, it would take up a fraction of the land and produce substantially more electricity, according to a new analysis.

The idea is ambitious, and for now, it’s really just a thought experiment. Today, hydropower is a significant source of renewable energy in the US, accounting for roughly six percent of the country’s total electricity output.

Removing all 2,603 hydro dams in America would leave a huge energy void behind, but it could also provide room for greener opportunities.

While it’s true that hydropower dams are a renewable source of energy, they still produce large amounts of greenhouse gases and can be environmentally destructive and costly to maintain in the long term.

In recent years, these criticisms have led to a growing dam removal movement. And although it’s theoretical, a massive investment in solar power might be able to cushion that loss.

To cover for all the hydro dams currently in use, scientists estimate we would need nearly 530,000 hectares of photovoltaics (PV). While this sounds like a lot, it’s a “surprisingly modest” amount compared to the combined size of most reservoirs, which cover nearly 4 million hectares nationwide.

In fact, the new analysis suggests that substitute solar panels could match the total energy output from hydro dams while using just 13 percent of the same land.

“I think that’s pretty astonishing and tantalising too,” John Waldman, an aquatic conservation biologist from the City University of New York, told Carbon Brief.

“I’m hoping this presents a different mindset for people who think about our energy futures.”

The potential land sitting under reservoirs right now is immense, and if only 50 percent of that surface is drained and used for solar panels, it could greatly improve energy efficiency, producing nearly three-and-a-half times the amount of energy hydropower currently generates.

Even in a more conservative hypothetical, where only a quarter of that drained land is used for solar farms, Waldman and his colleagues calculate energy production could increase 1.7 fold.

In some states, this has the potential to free up huge swathes of land for other purposes, including wildlife habitat, recreation, and agriculture. In Florida, for instance, scientists calculated a solar farm the size of New York’s Central Park (341 hectares) could replace 26,520 hectares of the state’s hydro dams.

The new analysis focused on solar power because it is easily scalable, but the authors argue the same logic can also be applied to wind power on a reservoir’s surrounding ridges and hydrokinetic turbines in a newly-flowing river.

“Also, potentially expensive and difficult-to-permit electrical lines that transmitted the hydropower already exist at these locations and could potentially be repurposed to carry electricity from alternative sources,” the authors argue.

Full article here.

Published findings in Nature Sustainability here.


259 thoughts on “Scientists ‘Tantalised’ by Draining Every Hydropower Dam in The US For Solar Panels

  1. Clever! And I guess they will have pumped hydro storage for night time? Win -win all the way to subsidies.

      • Your clue should have been,

        Win -win all the way to subsidies.

        I didn’t really think a [sarc] tag was necessary but YMMV.

        • Adding the tag would amount to sarcnado. So this moron left it off. But, hey, we’re not all sarc enabled.

        • While it’s true that hydropower dams are a renewable source of energy,

          At least he got that much right, though most ecowarriors don’t allow it to be called renewable niether do the renewable mandates.

          they still produce large amounts of greenhouse gases and can be environmentally destructive and costly to maintain in the long term.

          … and you think 500,000 hectares of panels and associated electronics is going to be maintainance free? Hydro is probably about the lowest maintenance technology you can get.

          while using just 13 percent of the same land

          and how much of that land is suitably oriented ( at least vaguely southerly exposure ) and not in a valley where it gets very short direct sunlight ? Hint: reservoirs are always in a valley, that is why they fill up with water !

          In recent years, these criticisms have led to a growing dam removal movement. And although it’s theoretical, a massive investment in solar power might be able to cushion that loss.

          “might be ” and “cushion” , that’s about as good as it is likely to get.

          Sadly, I’m not feeling very tantalised at this point.

          • Agreed, Greg!

            “In fact, the new analysis suggests that substitute solar panels could match the total energy output from hydro dams while using just 13 percent of the same land.”

            One key is this simple statement above:
            Meaning that another delusional desk activist urbanite has assumed that total surface acreage of reservoirs are solar panel buildable acres…

          • Not that I’d be in favor of it, but why don’t they just leave the Hydro plant & all the water as is, producing clean power, and then put solar floating on the surface?

        • And, what will be their source water supply to fight the fires caused by the Tesla installed Solar Panel explosions?

        • Mike Ozanne
          Yes, many, if not most of the dams, were built for flood control and to retain water for irrigation during the months it was needed. These days, they are also important for recreation ranging from fishing to water skiing. Energy production was and is a side benefit.

          It strikes me that reducing the requirements to enter college, and inflating grades, to encourage larger attendance at what has become a major industry, has resulted in ‘academics’ who are severely logic impaired.

        • Exactly.
          Hydropower dams do far more than make power.
          They store water in wet years and release it for stream flow during dry years, thus providing flood control and ensuring water supply. This is the most basic function of dams even when not used for power. Each is a critical function that cannot simply be dispensed with, because entire cities, and states, and economies have come to depend on each of these.
          But they do far more.
          They create the ability for widespread reliable irrigation, which is simply not possible without the head pressure and storage provided by a dam.
          The provide for the recreational and wildlife habitat opportunities of large bodies of fresh open water.
          The power they provide is not intermittent, and as such is far more valuable than solar power.
          It can reliably be used for base load power…something which is in no way possible with solar.
          Not only is solar not suitable or base load demand, but every watt of solar capacity must be backed up by reserves, including spinning reserve capacity.
          And the dams are already built, so any fossil fuels used to make them has already been expended. Once poured, (most types of) concrete actually absorbs CO2 over time.
          And dams last a LONG time, an can be dredged when the reservoirs fill in, providing soil and fill material.
          Some of it might be very valuable grades of topsoil.
          Panels, as we know, also require a huge amount of fossil fuel usage to mine, transport, and refine the materials, and to manufacture the panels.
          They are known to not last for a particularly long time.

          Much of the land filled by reservoirs is canyon land, steep hillsides, and other places not suitable for solar installations, which generally use flat open land.
          The examples of Florida dams seems especially misinformed and nonsensical: Most Florida dams are not installed with hydropower in mind, they are for flood control and water retention. Most dams in Florida are more properly described as locks.
          I find it hard to believe this is a serious proposal from serious or knowledgeable people.
          In fact it seems downright idiotic, considering how much more useful dams and especially hydroelectric power is than solar panels installations.
          These people at Nature Sustainability may be the dumbest human beings ever born.

        • yeah that was my first thought reading this idiocy
          people crops and animals need water
          as a thought experiment?
          it shows a staggering LACK of any thought at all.
          science alert is full cli-fi retard mode, the rare decent item among the dross is harder to find

        • I think it might be a little smarter to put floating panels on part of Lake Mead.

          It would reduce evaporation slightly, and there’s probably already some good-sized transmission lines nearby.

      • “Removing all 2,603 hydro dams in America would leave a huge energy void behind, but it could also provide room for greener opportunities.”

        What can be greener than hydropower? What are they smoking? How can they claim it generates lots of greenhouse gases? How? Just because they say it does, does not make it so.

        Oh, BTW, greenhouse gases do not exist, so emit all you want. It is thermodynamically and physically impossible for CO2 to heat anything, as it emits IR equivalent to -79 deg C and everything on the planet is hotter than that. This is why CO2 is a fantastic refrigerant, as it suck heat and emits at low temperature IR that HAS to be lost to space.

        • To cover for all the hydro dams currently in use, scientists estimate we would need nearly 530,000 hectares of photovoltaics (PV). While this sounds like a lot, it’s a “surprisingly modest” amount compared to the combined size of most reservoirs, which cover nearly 4 million hectares nationwide.

          In fact, the new analysis suggests that substitute solar panels could match the total energy output from hydro dams while using just 13 percent of the same land.

          And of course this wouldn’t allow for charging battery back-up systems as the generated power from solar must be used as it is produced. And solar produces it’s nameplate rating from 10 – 3ish local time then drops off dramatically while hydro produces power 24/7/365 (so long as the generation inlet is still below the waterline). So 13% of land coverage supplies 100% of the power 22% of the time. Something just doesn’t add up!

          • Ha,
            “If all the hydro-power dams in the United States were removed and replaced with solar panels, it would take up a fraction of the land and produce substantially more electricity, according to a new analysis.”

            EXCEPT AT NIGHT !

        • Exactly! I keep telling people to look at the satellite temp record for the LS layer on the NASA site and observe how it’s falling as CO2 levels rise. CO2 and NO are the gasses primarily responsible for dumping excess heat from the planet to space by radiation. You will also find that statement on the NASA site. We should be making more noise about this.

        • Charles
          I think that they are referring to methane. However, microbial decomposition of inundated vegetation probably produces CO2 as well.

          • OK, the reservoirs emit lots of methane – so does all the tundra in the arctic. Would the area covered by, and shielded from the sun, for the solar power installations emit zero methane? I think not but I doubt if their so called study gave it much thought.
            And oh-by-the-way, Isn’t methane subject to the SAME physics rules of feedback that Lord Monckton so thoroughly debunked in his recent paper?

          • So by the same token we should divert the Mississippi to eliminate the Delta and drain the Okeefenokee, the Everglades and the Camargue, and fell the New Forest?

            Planet endangering crisis after all…. no half measures…. except nuclear power… we can’t do that.

      • John Wadham Professor of Biology – freshwater fish. Still knows nothing about energy production or economics or flood control or anything to do with dams. Hydro is renewable after all.
        How he even could jump from fresh water aquatics to solar power is a mystery …but it sounds more like something graduate students have cobbled up.

      • You mean the ones that are in really rainy locations and have less than 50% usable sunlight days a year and would then also be down in valleys much of the time.

        fun that you insulted yourself

      • But it could get in the way of the boating.
        One could put solar panel on the wall of a dam. And if elevated, the solar panels could floated on reservoir and allow boating and maintenance to solar panels.

        But solar panels are pretty ugly- so skip the whole idea.

        I like idea floating platforms for nuclear power, nuclear power is only know way to reduce CO2 emissions.

        • The importance of water storage provided by dams and reservoirs is ignored.
          Who will pay for the decommissioning of the dams and replace the lost impounded water? What source of water will be substituted for the water in the reservoirs? There is no consideration of the environmental consequences of draining the reservoirs and basically destroying the adjacent ecosystems if the solar farms were built.

      • Sure . That way the resulting storm caused toxic waste from shattered panels won’t be readily seen by the peons ….

    • It was a meme a short time ago that “The Onion” was closing shop because the onion could no longer generate sarcasm more ironic than reported news. Then there was Monty Python but the Python was at least funny and not pretending that solar can generate electricity generally less than one half day. (unless you get some lights to light them at night)

      So I’m going; that we can burn witches at night to generate energy.
      What do you burn, apart from witches; MORE witches.

    • will have pumped hydro storage

      If they had an electricity pump and some place to pump it to.

    • Why not build buoyant solar panels and flute them on reservoirs?

      Then you could reduce evaporation at the same time.

      • Because the subsidy gravy train is ending ending.

        So, the less efficient floating solar panels won’t be gaining any type of a foothold … no free money anymore.

    • A reservoir is not a generator. It is a battery. A solar panel is a generator like a turbine.

      You need to replace like for like to yield a valid replacement.

    • A reservoir is not a generator. It is a battery. A solar panel is a generator like a turbine.

      You need to replace like for like to yield a valid replacement.

  2. Why would anyone in their right mind take this kind of nonsense seriously? This makes zero sense even if the IPCC was right about the size of the effect CO2 has on the surface temperature, which owing to a malfeasant conflict of interest, they couldn’t be more wrong about.

    • Even if such a solar panel worked, it would be a dystopian nightmare:
      – “a solar farm the size of New York’s Central Park (341 hectares) could replace 26,520 hectares of the state’s hydro dams”? Not at night it couldn’t. Not during a New York snow storm it couldn’t.
      – “costly to maintain in the long term”? – more costly to maintain than solar farms? daily washing as dust and bird crap collects on them? regular replacement of electrical infrastructure? Regular replacement of defunct solar panels?
      – “produce large amounts of greenhouse gases” – I had to look up the link to discover that they mean “lakes produce methane.” Honestly? All life produces methane (e.g. bull **** like this article produces methane) so are they recommending that after we drain the water, we sterilize the land before installing the solar panels? And keep it sterilized? Should we drain all natural lakes for the same reason? Maybe destroy all life on Earth?
      – plus a 341 hectare solar farm is harder to disguise as a natural lake.
      – plus it’s way less fun to go fishing or water skiing on a 341 hectare solar farm.
      I guess their dystopian vision of renewable energy is bleak sterile dry lake-beds populated with solar panels and surrounded by bleak sterile hills populated with windmills. Welcome to the new world.

  3. I have no words I can use in public to describe the stupidity of the author, scientists involved and anyone who believe this

    • I, for one, am rarly at a loss for words. Many of my reaction words seem to be on proscribed lists, so I will often quote Bugs Bunny when referencing the authors of this “study” and others of: “What a maroon!”.

  4. So they want to take away our recreation as well. No more house boating. No more water skiing. No more swimming. Instead on our days off we can wash stupid solar panels.

    • We will be happy to do our part, comrade! Your tendency to put recreation above duty to the collective has been duly noted. You will be informed concerning the initiation date of your reeducation.

      • Yes, San Francisco gets a substantial portion of its drinking water from Hetch Hetchy reservoir, and in more recent years, from newly built dams.

    • No more irrigation water, no more flood control, no more freshwater lake fish habitat, no more serene views of shimmering water between hills. You can forget about the farms in CA’s Central Valley where 80% of the world’s almonds are grown, and vast quantities of walnuts, apricots and pistachios; also forget the massive apple orchards in Central Washington, the largest apple-producing region in the U.S.

      It’s not like manmade reservoirs are barren areas; many are just as beautiful and biologically productive as natural lakes — even without counting the irrigation water that supplies adjacent areas.

      We’re dealing with misanthropic ideologues here, straight out of Orwell’s Animal Farm: “Manmade BAD, natural GOOD,” regardless of measurable pros & cons. Greening of the desert? Not on your life, not if Gaia made it dry in the first place. And don’t think for a minute, Neo-Luddites will allow abandoned reservoirs to be carpeted with solar panels. They will insist upon restoring the pre-Columbian status quo ante of native vegetation.

    • Why is the water environment less important than dry or perhaps even arid land. I am sure fish frogs and waterfowl would disagree. A lake, either manmade or natural, has a very diverse and complicated biome. It is an integral part of the environment and once established should be entitled to equal protection.

  5. “The study from Washington State University finds that methane, which is at least 34 times more potent than another greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, makes up 80% of the emissions from water storage reservoirs created by dams. ”

    So, by this logic, we should drain all large bodies of water ? Where do the think the water will go ? Why would it suddenly stop emitting “ghg’s” if it were some where else and all of these “emissions” are currently included in global greenhouse gas inventories !

    These people are insane..

    • Best laugh of the day…

      I never realized that GH gas emissions from bodies of water were such a problem. Just drain the Great Lakes and all our methane emission problems are solved–goodbye global warming! And why are we worried about CO2 when there is all this methane and (gasp!) water vapor being “emitted” all over the place.

      I see they calculated the percentage of total reservoir emissions attributable to methane, but stopped short of calculating a total amount? Or is it stuck in there somewhere?

      BTW Mark, why not send all this drained water down disposal wells as frack process water?

    • “80% of the emissions”… but how much is that quantitatively? Probably most of my farts are methane too but i genrally don’t have much gas to speak of.

  6. How much power will those new solar panels provide at night ?
    How much power do these dams current provide at night ?

    Yeah that’s what I thought.

  7. This is the most egregiously awful carbon trade ever. Of course, they never consider the carbon footprint of mining and converting, etc all of those panels. They grow on Chinese trees you know.

  8. Yes, but the hydro-electric reservoirs act as batteries, backing up existing wind and solar farms when they are not producing. Grand Coulee is very key helping bolster wind and solar farms presently in the West Coast of the U.S.

  9. Totally ignores the day/night problem. Dams run 24×7 when water is available. Dams also generate zero industrial waste, or close enough, once they are built.

  10. Let me think about this one for a sec …. NO! Are they nuts (rhetorical question)? Replace 24×7 with intermittent? NO, no a thousand times no.

    Here’s a really great idea. Let them pay for all those solar panels and pump water uphill to store the energy for when it is needed! What? Oh, gravity does that for us already? Never mind (homage to Gilda Radner).

    • Crockett, not really either. Sitting there fishing at the bank of the dam while the Sun is rising, and the first people begin to enjoy water-skiing. The green _really_ want to destroy the last bit of nature and cultural habitats for man and beast.

    • Have you ever seen the effects of a windstorm/thunderstorm as it cross a large body of water, such as a large reservoir lake? Haven’t you heard that spreading thick ice when the surface of a fresh water lake freezes over can be sufficient to crush the hulls of boats?


    • Or keep them at land, that’d be cheaper.

      “While it’s true that -hydropower dams-solar panels are a renewable source of energy, they still produce large amounts of greenhouse gases and can be environmentally destructive and costly to maintain in the long term.”

      There, fixed it for you. David Middleton, please serve us a guest back-of-an-envelope. 🙂

      • Yes Hugs:
        Add to this that these panels are specifically designed to heat the planet by reducing the Albedo and enhancing the solar absorption which is then converted into Heat/Energy. And they do it better than CO2.

    • It would require some pretty fancy mooring and cabling you know. There are storms and the level of reservoirs vary a great deal but the floats must not collide with each other irrespective of weather and lake level, and the cables must not chafe.

    • Float the panels was my first thought too. I also like the comment by icicil:

      Sounds like something an academic would come up with. They probably think the land under lakes is flat too.

      • Kai
        September 2, 2019 at 11:25 am

        Exactly…they’ve provably never studied dam siting issues. Many would be in a valley where in addition to getting no sun at night (who would have thought!) they are also in the shade for much of the day.

        Floating panels might work, but at what cost?

      • Indeed, they do. There was a book back in the 90’s called Cadillac Desert that railed against the dams. When Clinton was president there were serious proposals to remove the dams.

    • A floating solar farm would stop some of the reservoir evaporation as well…and cool the panels for max efficiencies. They are doing this at a tailings pond and water reservoir for a copper mine in Chile I was reading about using the floating solar PV electricity with their remote diesel generation. Now that actually makes total sense, and completely unsubsidized. Saves them some diesel fuel and curtails evaporation in a desert condition where water is very valuable.

      If the solar could be incorporated into some pumped storage at the dam, then all the better. Or just timing the output of the solar with the dam generators and store the water for when needed. I am not opposed to solar if not subsidized or given priorities that cost other electricity producers, or bulldoze forest land or ag land for a solar farm. I am surprised there isn’t more floating solar farms.

      Of course this proposal was to tear out the dams if they could. Guess we shouldn’t give them any idea’s or next we won’t be able to make use for recreation from our reservoirs.

    • Floating panels and recreational boating do not play well together, or with swimming either. And I really hate it when my fishing hook gets snagged on their wiring.

      • Another thing that floating panels would have to contend with is debris. Logs, dead fish and plastic bottles.

      • Most reservoirs that I have seen have barriers near the dam to prevent boats from being sucked into the turbine inlet. So, panels could be placed in the area that is already off limits to boats, maybe expanded a bit. But, the surface area will decrease as the water level drops, so unless it is OK to have panels draped over the sides, the width will have to be no greater than the width of the canyon at the lowest level anticipated for water in drought years.

        My take is the solar panels, used judiciously, could make power generation more efficient at reservoirs sites, but it would be a serious mistake to blow the dams.

        • Submersible expensive and heavy.
          It would have to hang to the bottom and come back up. That is a lot of cable.
          Then there is the voltage drop. Are you gonna put electronics and transformers out there too?
          Floats. Maintenance. Storms. Ice. Installation.
          Mooring or anchoring. Drift. Variable water level.
          Fouling. And for what?

          This might be an exercise in how to make something already too expensive even more so.

    • Panels would also reduce evaporation, and the areas closest to the dams aren’t for recreation anyway. But I think most people would find panels uglier than open water.

    • Covering part of a lake with floating solar panels would seem to be a better solution than draining the lake. I imagine draining a lake would have a significant detrimental effect on all the living creatures around it.

      Building new nuclear powerplants instead, would be a much better solution to our electricity needs.

      CAGW has driven some people a little nutty and they are proposing nutty ideas like this “draining the lake” as a result.

  11. About Carly Cassella: “…writing from Carly Cassella on Medium. I write about science, the environment and feminism…”

    Are the greens going pink or mental. It appears to written by an 8 year old.
    The solar panels need stabilizing backup, for example from hydro. – No, I give up, this is so stupid that I have difficulties to comment.

  12. Never mind, of course, that the power from dams is reasonably reliable 24/7/365.

    Dams aren’t just for power production – they’re more important in many places as flood control and irrigation water storage. California is still failing to learn this lesson.

    Then, of course, there’s the whole idea of using dams as pumped storage for wind and solar generation.

  13. Ms. Carly Cassella obviously does not understand the difference between the “dispatchable” energy source, and attendant energy storage ability, represented by hydropower versus the daily-intermittent, non-dispatachable, no-stored-energy ability of solar PV.

    And should I be surprised that both “Science Alert” and “Nature Sustainability” published this tripe?

    “Tantalizing” idea??? . . . Pfffttttt!

  14. Hydropower is available 24/7/365. Norway built its energy supply 100 years ago and have almost 100% of its electricity from hydropower. There are no coal or gas plants as backup.

    The old dams are producing electricity at a cost of $0.006 pr kWh. But because of greedy politicians the added tax etc means that consumers have to pay $0.125

  15. Sure! How will solar panels and windmills control floods and store water in addition to the hydro power? Then there are the recreational facilities, home sites and the economies that have grown up only because of the lakes. Oh yes, and no consideration for the fact that dispatchable hydro power would be replaced by non-dispatchable power.

    Hard to believe that otherwise intelligent people (supposedly) put so much faith in solar and wind energy when it’s perfectly obvious to most human beings that the sun only shines about 1/2 of each day, and the wind comes and goes at will.

  16. This is utterly delusional. Hydro power is extremely reliable, very cheap and to a considerable degree storable and thus about as different and as much better than PV as anything can be.

    The ironic thing is that the only way PV could ever replace conventional power is if it is combined with pumped hydro on a vast scale.

    • Which would require a second dam to store the “vast” amount of water needed to pump back uphill.
      And how efficient is this process of pumping water back uphill?
      IOW…what percent of power generated, and then used to pump water, winds up back in the grid when the water is released and used to regenerate power?
      My guess is a small fraction of it.
      And where are the places one could build a second water impoundment beneath a large dam?
      If it is too close, it reduces the head of the first dam.
      We have heard of pumped storage, but little on the particulars.
      And I would not rely on advocates for honest info…we see the sort of BS they foist.

      • Pumped water storage for energy production is an ECONOMIC phenomenon that uses as much energy as is produced. Water is released and energy produced at the time of day when electricity prices are highest, maximizing revenue. Water is pumped back into storage at times when electricity costs are the lowest (middle of the night). Using the most expensive form of energy production (solar) to pump water into storage defeats the whole economic purpose. Idiocy.

        • “Using the most expensive form of energy production (solar) to pump water into storage defeats the whole economic purpose. Idiocy.”

          You’re confusing operating vs. capital costs. Solar has ZERO fuel cost, monocrystalline silicon has an up to 0.5% annual production decline that will happen regardless of whether the power is sold or curtailed.

          So the point at which it makes economic sense to shut down is a selling price of zero to slightly negative.

          Obviously it wouldn’t make sense to always run at a price of zero, and becauae of varying demand and weather they don’t. And I’m ignoring the market-distorting evil of subsidies, which should neither be offered to solar installers or Saudi princes or LNG terminals.

  17. The idea of destroying one perfectly good method of energy production and replacing it with another expensive, unreliable method is mindblowingly stupid. It’s like “cash for clunkers” on steroids. Here’s a thought experiment: replace any decreased electric generation from loss of dams, which are probably old and relatively small and thus inefficient, with modern coal-fired, or (if available) gas-fired plants. Problem solved.

    • “The idea of destroying one perfectly good method of energy production and replacing it with another expensive, unreliable method is mindblowingly stupid.”

      true – but it is also an excellent gauge of most greens intellectual capacity / critical thinking skills

  18. Many hydroelectric dams’ first function is in flood control. So, go ahead and remove the dams, cover the land now occupied by impounded water with a vast array of solar panels; then wait for the first floods to wash them downstream.

    • My though exactly. Yep it really make sense to put solar panels on a floodplain. We have far to many educated idiots in this country.

    • Ummmm! maybe if they glue the panels to the ground and to each other using Extinction Rebellion supporters as caulking?
      Probably wouldn’t work but might make the ER lot feel useful.

  19. Seems a few nuclear plants would provide reliable energy with much less land. They don’t wink out at night as do solar panels. Need I mention that water flows at night also?

    But, if they insist: Why not just cover a portion of the water with solar panels? Makes more sense than making a road out of them. That’s been tried.

    Consider too, the loss of flood control and the lost recreational activities relating to boating, fishing, swimming, and so on.

    “… and hydrokinetic turbines in a newly-flowing river
    Are rivers in Florida suitable for such things?

    Anyway, a great thought experiment provoked by a non-problem.

  20. Dams create more CO2 because they create bodies of water behind them?
    Well it is the Guardian (here we have a local fish wrapper titled The Grunnion Gazette).

    Would making the reservoirs behind them less ecologically friendly make them better? How about less useful for boaters and fishermen?

    As long as we are abandoning rational ideas, if we could float solar panels on top of these lakes why not suspend them from cables high above the gorges after we demolish the dams?

    We must not allow the level of irrationality displayed by these fools to merge into a critical mass of dangerous ignorance.

  21. Anyone calculate the lifetime of dams in comparison to the lifetime of solar panels? It’s sad that this wasn’t published on the Babylon Bee or its equivalent.

  22. This is insane.

    No one pays a premium to have a solar-farm side home, or photographs or paints solar-farm scenes.
    And how does solar work out with flood control and a reliable source of fresh water?

    Labor Day, millions of people head out to the lakes for skiing, swimming, boating, fishing;
    but these killjoys really want a prison state that benefits China manufacturing.

    We are watching “science” turn in to a dystopian cult.

  23. Great idea! Let’s start with Hoover Dam and see how long it takes Las Vegas to become a ghost town (90% of its drinking water comes from Lake Mead). Severe water rationing in LA will be no problem either.

    • Not to worry: the fish will be sent to re-education camps, where they will learn to live in the woods and be a source of food and sport for fish-hunters.

      Yes, it’s just a thought-experiment right now, but…

  24. “I think that’s pretty astonishing and tantalising too,”
    Astonishing, yes. Implausible even.
    Tantalizing, perhaps because it is always magically impossible and not within reach.
    But, I know what crap smells like, and have seen far too many woefully ignorant and incomplete assessments to waste any effort on fantasies and reckless overreaching.

  25. Oh, the abject stupidity of this idiotic ‘proposal’! These intellectual midgets propose to replace reliable, low cost, 100% dispatchable 24/7/365 hydro electrical energy with unreliable, high cost, 25% dispatchable only when the sun shines and is not obscured by clouds photovoltaics. And that’s if the solar panels don’t immolate themselves first. Both Amazon and Walmart have filed suit against Tesla for fires caused by their solar panels. Now, the LA Times reports on the same problem with Tesla residential solar panels installations.
    Tesla residential rooftop solar panels catch fire, and the lawsuits start flying

    • Technically the panels themselves can’t start a fire, but there wouldn’t have been miles of wire up on the roof if not for the panels.

      Probably they’ll find the cause was improper installation by the lowest bidder using the cheapest possible materials and paying the lowest wages allowed by law.

  26. No engineers were disturbed by the authors of this idea. Biologists are sciencey folk, too, ya know. How do we know hydro dams actually work at night. Maybe they pack it in at sunset?

    If the water itself wasnt a precious resource and if solar panels weren’t fraught with reliability, environmental and service longevity problems, the idea wasn’t that bad. Please don’t do it.

    • And the only environment that I can think of that would be more risky than floating panels on water, would be floating them on salt water. Rain (slightly acid) will start corroding exposed metal, and waves on the water will slop over the top, make a great importunity for short-circuits.

      I suppose these problems could be overcome, but it could only be done at increased cost of materials, construction, and maintenance.

      • Let’s get “basic” land-based solar panels to a cost-effective, reliable, long-lasting point before we try large floating fields of them.

      • Some municipalities are forced to cover their water storage ponds to keep light out. (Some kind of chemical reaction with UV) so they use a million black plastic spheres.

        Floating solar systems are being built currently, mostly closer to the equator. The panels run cooler and evaporation is less.

        Probably a solar PV system could be built that would do the job as well.

  27. Dam life span is a century or more. Solar panel life span is a decade or two at best. Did they figure in the replacement costs?

  28. Aside from the fact that draining existing reservoirs would do next to nothing to create PV capacity – since these reservoirs are not great places to build anything at all – this analysis ignores the fact that nearly all hydropower dams service multiple uses – not just power production, but also flood control, irrigation for cropland, inland navigation, and recreation – none of which is compatible with PV farms.

    Silly stuff.

    And no, just no – lakes are not big carbon generators. That is preposterous.

  29. Wow! The ignorance of hydrology Cassella is amazing. A large portion of dams with generation were designed with flood control and dry month water retention as their primary purpose. Generators were added to the designs to take advantage of power potential made available by the resultant lakes and design water release rates. An example of this is the Oroville dam north of Sacramento, California. This dam, as well as others up stream, was built to prevent spring flooding of Sacramento. An additional benefit is the water made available for the 6 months of the year when there is little or no rain in California. Of course, adding electric generation to the dam(s) made sense.

    Missouri, though having many rivers and streams, has relatively little hydro generation on them. Dams have been built primarily for flood control, with some having generation installed. Those dams such as Truman and Bagnell were installed for power generation but the lakes created are in deep, winding, narrow canyons which are not suitable for solar or wind generation sites.

    Oh well, I guess reality doesn’t matter is your paper can garner citations in other documents. Citation count is what makes careers, not accuracy.

  30. Wot about fish and bath water? When I was in Santa Barbara CA Coupla years ago my host made me stand in a bucket while taking a shower. Relaxed of course since the drought broke and the reservoirs are full. I suppose we can all stand in buckets for ever?

  31. Obviously people with no experience or understanding of electric power generation, transmission and distribution. This idea is a disaster on a massive scale.

  32. I was wondering when this would be talked about. The greenies forget (or chose to ignore) the fact that besides hydroelectric production the reserviors have other benefits too- domestic water source, flood control, recreation. Typical liberals can only think in one plane when it comes to promoting their agenda. Besides eliminating these reservoirs have their own environment problems to contend with.

  33. Great idea, and while we are at it we should drain Lake Michigan and create 22,300 square miles of solar generating space. Upon reading the article I immediately thought of draining lakes Powell and Mead on the Colorado, but their combined area is a measly 498 square miles and a lot of that will be shaded by high canyon walls. And draining lake Michigan would knock out 45 times as much methane generating fresh water environment.

    • Interesting idea. As it is, I think people are using its water as fast as they can and it’s still at high levels.

      • This year was supposedly the highest level since they’ve been keeping records. I visited two cities where the parking lots at the beach were partially submerged and you had to swim to the dock to get to your boat.

  34. The ad at the top of the page is:

    Power Companies Hate This

    I think such an ad would have a much better chance of success on They’re wasting their money here.

  35. The reservoirs behind the dams do harbor wildlife. The water is often used for more purposes than just generating electricity. There is still plenty of places to construct solar panels like on roof tops and over roadways and parking lots. Solar panels do not provide electricity at night and on cloudy days but hydroelectric facilities still do. Solar facilities and wind farms might be used to pump water back in to lakes during the day instead of having to use batteries at night. In terms of land use. nuclear power plants require a lot fewer acres per Kilowatt hour than does hydroelectric or solar. Nuclear is actually better for the environment.

    • So we need a lake at the bottom of the dam too.
      Won’t that make twice as much methane and take two dams?

    • That is easy. Every morning the good citizens will form up in neat lines just before dawn and take turns to lick the moisture that has formed off of the solar panels.

  36. 530,000 hectares of photovoltaics (PV). While this sounds like a lot… It is a lot. It’s 2,070 square miles.

    The total 4 million hectares of the reservoirs is 15,625 square miles, on which collective farms could employ some of the now-unused water to raise veggie burgers for the communities of tree-huggers.

    The potential land sitting under reservoirs right now is immense, and if only 50 percent of that surface is drained and used for solar panels… I suppose it’s too much to ask the learned ‘study’ authors how they’ll insure that the 50 percent they retain is all on the northerly (south-facing) side of the storage basins, since the southerly sides face away from the sun and will see damn little sunlight. Maybe they’ll tilt the basins first?

    Also I don’t see how the ‘current power lines’, which carry hydropower 24/7 from their generators, will be such a success when actually used less than half a day in the real world.

  37. Sunlight is the source of energy for both. Dams are just equivalent to storage batteries. The PV panels they are comparing have no batteries….

    • Larry Hamlin
      Spencer’s 2nd Law is that more than half of adults have IQs less than 100. (Due to such problems as motorcycle accidents and recreational drug use.) My suspicion is that liberals account for a disproportionate share of the lower half.

  38. From the paper link—Abstract —-“These analyses are theoretical and do not consider costs…” Costs involve energy, should stop right there!!!!

    Paper—“Our analysis was based exclusively on PV replacement for hydro-power foregone. The amount of land needed to replace a substantial number of hydro-dams could be further reduced by (1) inclusion of wind power, (2) aquatic diversionary or hydrokinetic turbines that capture a portion of a river’s energy without damming, (3) other forms of alternative energy production and (4) energy efficiency measures that would reduce total energy demand, depending on individual site conditions. Also, land dedicated to PV arrays can provide ancillary environmental benefits, such as using them for low-lying crops and meadows for pollinators 25,26 or making productive use of contaminated lands…. However, of 32 environmental impacts of solar power plants, 22 were considered beneficial in comparison with traditional power generation, 4 were neutral, none were detrimental, and 6 required further research.”

    Dams (Aswan, and many others) have had an effect on coastal fisheries (with which I have been involved), among other inland changes. To be fair, a real comparison of pros and cons might be nice. “….none were detrimental,..” is 99.77% impossible.

    This came from Nature, will get another round of ads from reading it. Current one has Nature cover “Burning Issues” with, of course, smoke in the background.

    • Also, land dedicated to PV arrays can provide ancillary environmental benefits, such as using them for low-lying crops and meadows for pollinators

      Hint to scientific geniuses: Those ‘low-lying crops’ depend on sunlight for their life cycles and photosynthesis. But that essential sunlight will be intercepted and blocked by the solar panels overhead.

      This is a science class, not one of wishful thinking. Take a provisional ‘F’, rework and re-submit with a workable proposal.

      • I’m sure that geneticists can develop low-light tolerant corn and soybean hybrids! [Do I need a ‘sarc’ tag?]

    • ““These analyses are fantastical and do not consider costs…” Corrected!
      It seems that they know not the difference between theory and fantasy :¬(

  39. How’s the fishing, swimming, boating, water skiing, picnic-ing, and general all round recreation at a grid-scale solar array? Really? I’ll keep the lakes and reservoirs PLUS 24/7 pollution free generation.

  40. So tell the people of Las Vegas you are planning on draining Lake Mead that drives the Hoover Dam generators and replacing them with solar panels.

    Electricity is not the long term issue for Las Vegas planners, it’s water.

    Then ask these nutjobs who suggest such lunatic ideas what happens then when the sun goes down? Or it gets cloudy for few days? Or that while hydro dams do have to maintained, what the cost of maintaining solar panel farms (and batteries?) would be in comparison to the cheap electricity hydro provides. It is exactly because of hydro power that Washington State has the lowest electricity prices in the US. Leftist morons want to destroy that, and put in solar panel farms somewhere else? Like the electricity in Arizona, So Cal can instantly be available to anywhere in the US? These folks are clueless morons. All of them.

    These eco-nutters who advocate dam-removal are just Liberal Arts (un-)educated morons with zero understanding of anything mathematical or engineering related. They live in happy-little unicorn emotional states and run fro reality. Gender studies and other useless degrees like “climate change communications” degrees are far worse than no advanced “education.” These morons on the Left actually think they know something, something that turns out to be opposite of reality (dam removal would somehow be “good), which is worse than recognized ignorance.

    • Most of the agriculture in the Columbia Basin of Washington State would cease if we removed the dams on the Columbia River. Also, there would be no barging of grain destined for Asia down the Columbia River without the dams and locks, so fossil fuels would have to be used.

      I’m starting to get a mental picture of the future for the U.S. if the Leftards implement their MAMA ideology.

    • “Electricity is not the long term issue for Las Vegas planners, it’s water.”

      The last time I spent any time in Las Vegas was in the summer of 1974. The city’s population was roughly 350,000 back then. There were still open areas between the outskirts of town and Henderson.

      Not any more. The population of the city is now well over a million.

      When I took the obligatory tour of Hoover Dam, I asked the guide how long it would be before the reservoir behind the dam silted up to the level of the turbine intakes.

      I wasn’t the first to ask the question, and he had a ready answer. About a thousand years. He also said that future generations were likely to do whatever they had to do to keep the dam’s intakes open.

  41. Hydro and nuclear are the only two practical “green” energy sources and they hate both. Makes sense only if you understand that their goal is to destroy the country.

    • If we ever starts enacting National Energy policy based on some crap, self-serving, self-interested pseudoscience paper written by a fish conservation biologist, then we deserve what happens next.

    • They admit that their idea is not realistic and that they are thinking outside the box. So what they are really doing is what so many academics are hired to do, i.e., intellectually jerk off.

  42. Water does not need any maintenance or very little anyway but PV panels require huge maintenance in comparison . Not only cleaning and constantly cleaning ! there is the failure rate which I am not sure of in PV panels but I am sure it exists . And with 530,000 hectares of panels , how many panels is that ? many millions . There would need to be a separate industry to just maintain and replace them (every 20 years or so) hydro power dams last 100 years + with relatively very few moving parts . As I think about this and type it gets more ridiculous . It must be joke !

    • Don,
      Actually, there are many small dams around the Santa Clara Valley (aka Silicon Valley) that formerly were treated with copper sulfate to keep the algae blooms under control. I don’t know if they still do it. The eco-loons have probably trotted out their inscribed tablets with the Precautionary Principle and demanded that toxins no longer be applied to reservoirs that often contained sediments rich in mercury sulfide and metallic mercury.

  43. How much energy do the expect to get from north facing slopes? Imagine if they drained the Flaming Gorge in Wyoming/Utah? It’s spider like layout has as much north facing slopes as any other direction.
    Not going to generate enough energy on those slopes to make it worth it.

  44. When you’re focused on only Green Energy you tend to miss other important things, like flood control and water supply.

  45. Why stop at draining a few dams or lakes. Let’s just go the distance and drain the Pacific. What could possibly be wrong with that!

    • Moderately Cross of East Anglia
      September 2, 2019 at 1:35 pm

      Sorry, but as a New Zealander living near some beautiful beaches I have to disagree with you.

      However, draining the Atlantic is a much better proposition…less water to drain, reduces your chance for hurricanes to develop and avoids those embarrassing “Titanic” moments. And the newly exposed mid-ocean ridge would provide a great tourist attraction and a guaranteed supply of new land for even more solar panels.

  46. They could install solar panels just above the water surface, thus producing solar energy and hydro-power at the same time.
    This also will prevent sunlight of reaching water surface, thus reducing algae, bacteria and fishes growth, thus reducin CO2 and methane emissions.

  47. The purpose of a hydro reservoir is potential energy storage over the seasons. Only the powerhouse produces energy, on demand at that.
    Solar panels have no storage capability and no ability to produce on demand. In the winter output is half in the south and nothing in the north. There is no equivalence here.
    It is wonderful how easy it is to come up with brilliant ideas on a subject you know nothing about when you have enough dope.

  48. I’m amused by the idea of “an aquatic conservation biologist” advocating draining bodies of acquatic material.

  49. As many comments indicate, hydro lakes have many other uses. None of these uses were addressed in the article. ScienceAlert should be embarrassed for publishing this. It isn’t just the author that is crazy.

    Hydro isn’t even the primary reason for most dams. Flood control and water storage come first. You get a twofer for hydro and storage because you get power when you deliver the water.

    If you look at lakes Powell and Meade, if you drain them, the terrain is unsuitable for solar. Do they think the bottom of the lake is flat? And you take away Nevada, Arizona and California water supplies. Yes. Let them drink sand. How are those millions of people going to compensate? Southern California has to rely on water from northern California and the Colorado river basin as it doesn’t have much of its own.

    This was not a very well thought out article.

    • Jeff: they never are

      They don’t consider geometry or maintenance or environmental factors for equipment or transmission or storage or …

      I blame it on a combination of factors, not the least of which is a poor education and probably too much Harry Potter and related fiction

    • Before those dams were built, there were frequent years of terrible flooding, and other years of almost zero stream flow for months at a time.
      The idea of getting rid of dams is insane.
      They idea of getting rid of them so we can use the space for wasteful solar power arrays is almost too stupid to comprehend.
      The claim that is would save space or money or anything else is a plain old lie.

  50. But we MUST be doing it the wrong way now because capitalism is in operation, and we need to go the other way to get a marxist utopia, so stop making sense, and drain all the dams!

  51. Article: “The authors of the new analysis admit that their calculations are not exactly “realistic” and their hypothetical is more about potential than anything else. Nowadays, we still can’t figure out how to efficiently store and deploy vast amounts of solar power when we need it, so battery storage would need to improve for this idea to come to fruition.”

    The big bugaboo with the current generation of grid-scale lithium-ion storage batteries has been capital costs, and replacement & disposal costs.

    Vanadium-flow redox batteries are now being promoted as the solution to wind and solar’s intermittency issues and their lack of dispatchable, on demand generation capacity. Here is an article from Forbes about the WattJoule V-flow battery.

    “The latest technology to emerge is the vanadium redox battery, also known as the vanadium-flow battery. And the best one seems to be from WattJoule, especially because their cost is so much lower than other V-flow batteries.”

    The constant refrain heard from wind and solar’s advocates is that the cost of battery storage is coming down rapidly.

    In announcing their decision to close Diablo Canyon by 2025, PG&E’s management in San Francisco claimed that reaching 70% renewable electricity for California by 2030 is doable. But they didn’t say how exactly this goal could be achieved, only that in their opinion, it could be done.

    No one in authority in California has told PG&E to do an engineering feasibility study to determine what specific steps must be taken to reach 70% renewable electricity for their customers by 2030, including how much grid-scale battery storage must be purchased and installed.

    If the WattJoule V-flow system is the best that will be available throughout the 2020’s, then the 70% by 2030 engineering study for PG&E’s customers should use the WattJoule product as the sole cost basis information source for estimating the price of California’s grid-scale energy storage requirements.

    If PG&E won’t do the study, then the California Independent System Operator (ISO) should to be given direction and funding to perform the estimating work. After all, if you can’t trust the California ISO, who can you trust?

  52. I was really surprised reading that water reservoirs emit greenhouse gasses, so I followed the link to the article for an explanation:

    Here, they say: “Instead, “biological activities” in a reservoir – such as decaying vegetation and nutrient runoff from watersheds upstream – are more important indicators of greenhouse gas emissions. The nutrient runoff can be from natural processes or from farming, logging and land development.”

    My question is… What would happen to that upstream vegetation without the dam? Would it exist forever? Or would it decay and emit GHG anyway?
    I mean… those GHG are not caused by the dam, they are caused by the vegetation!

    • Vegetation and nutrient runoff are both part of the carbon cycle. The amount of CO2 they produce when they decay is the same amount they consume when they grow.

      Hydropower dams do NOT produce any greenhouse gasses!

  53. So much for previously impoverished areas that became “unpoverished” by TVA’s hydro-power. (And, of course the water.)
    So much for the drinking water and irrigation water dams provide. (By-by LA?)
    I did notice that they are only talking about “dams” that provide hydro-power.
    So I guess that bastion of sensibility, NYC, is safe since they get their hydro-power via Niagara Falls (no dam) and their water from the Finger Lakes in upstate NY.

  54. Goofball conservationists have been trying to get us to tear out dams for decades now. You know, free the rivers, stop the reservoir lakes from changing the ecosystems, let the fish migrate, all development is bad, and etc. etc. We’ve all read some of their arguments against dams in general. I think, considering the source (Nature Sustainability), that this “report” came out of one of those spitballing sessions where every possible attack on dams was to be thrown up against the wall to see if anything stuck. I think they whiffed on this one, but wouldn’t be surprised to see AOC pick up on it.

  55. This breathtakingly stupid article seems to assume the existence of a new type of solar panel that generates continuous electricity at night from moonshine. The author of the article seems ignorant on all fronts economic, energy and environmental.

  56. Dams are rarely single purpose, they serve as flood control devices and (drinking) water buffers, recreational water bodies etc. Moreover not dependent on day-night on off regime so pretty useless analysis.

  57. From the US Bureau of Reclamation:

    Manages, develops, and protects water and related resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner in the interest of the American public.
    Is the nation’s largest wholesale water supplier, operating 338 reservoirs with a total storage capacity of 140 million acre-feet (an acre-foot, 325,851 gallons of water, supplies enough water for a family of four for one year).

    Provides 1 out of 5 (or, 140,000) Western farmers with irrigation water for 10 million farmland acres that produce 60 percent of the nation’s vegetables and one quarter of its fresh fruit and nut crops.

    Is the second largest producer of hydropower in the United States and operates 53 hydroelectric powerplants that annually produced, on average, 40 billion kilowatt-hours for the last 10 years.

    Delivers 10 trillion gallons of water to more than 31 million people each year.

  58. If they are ‘Tantalized’ by Draining Every Hydropower Dam in The US For Solar Panels then they are NOT scientists…

  59. Grand Coulee literally costs less in today’s dollars than the largest solar farm in the US – $600,000,000 less – produces 1,300% more energy and can do it at night, has a longer lifespan than the solar farm by more than 100 years, and creates power grid stability throughout most of western North America.

    Not to mention that most large scale hydro is within steep valleys where the lake surface area isn’t that much greater than the river’s. Consider that, the extra area you’d need from less well sited solar farms i.e. Arkansas, the area needed for battery storage, and the extra area for all the transmission lines, roads, and maintenance buildings, then you probably break even in land area. You just increase power cost by about 1,000%, create grid instability, increase river flooding, and decrease recreation – the death cult’s dream.

  60. So you drain a reservoir, lose the hydro power that was being provided from the reservoir, and to make up for the lost power you install a solar installation in the flood plain you just created?


  61. “The idea is ambitious, and for now, it’s really just a thought experiment. ”

    Not sure if it’s a thought experiment to see if anyyone is stipid enough to believe it, or an experiment with little thought?

  62. A though experiment with VERY rough math, assuming 20% efficiency on average (which is optimistic). We use (call it) 20 to 30 Terawatts—continuous power for global consumption and want to replace it with solar?

    If we assume about 1 KW incident total energy impinging on each square meter (on the surface of the Earth, a bit over 1300W on orbit), and an output at each panel of 200 watts—right there, not half way around the world. That’s 100 billion to 150 billion square meters, assuming clear skies—300 billion to 450 billion square meters for margin of error, heat inefficiencies, transmission of energy, and weather—at all times, orthogonal to the direction of sunlight. To cover the Earth as it rotates would require multiples—not always in convenient locations.

    Solar is a low density energy source. Good for certain applications where you can’t string a wire. That’s its strength.

  63. Best ider I herd in awhile…but after draining just let the trees grow. Leave the solar panels in China and make the below water line land park lands.

  64. charles the moderator / 6 hours ago September 2, 2019

    From Science Alert


    31 AUG 2019

    If all the hydro-power dams in the United States were removed and replaced with solar panels, it would take up a fraction of the land and produce substantially more electricity, according to a new analysis.”

    CARLY CASSELLA is free to remove all of his own hydro-power dams in the United States and replace them with solar panels to produce substantially more electricity, according to a new analysis.

    And charles the moderator is free to find bank credits for CARLY CASSELLA so that he can build up a profitable business on the increased energy yield.

    Just keep it up, CARLY CASSELLA and charles the moderator! Courage.

    Show us!

  65. My dear friends:
    Do not stop your enemy when he is making a mistake.

    If we just keep quiet, this idea will catch on among our elites and be incorporated into the New Green Deal. Every D will have to endorse it.

    Please. Encourage them. Don’t mock them… yet.

    • I’d really like to see a forthcoming paper where Waldman collaborates with Jacobson of Stanford, whose pathway to 100% reliable renewable was to increase instantaneous hydro generation capacity by something like five or ten times.

      Because… if getting rid of all the dams is a “thought experiment” I’m really interested to find out what happens when it merges with what must be an anti-thought experiment.

  66. I’m sorry but those numbers really don’t add up. 15 Watts per square foot, 107,639 Sqft in a hectare, that comes out to about 550 Mega Watts. Hoover Dam has a capacity of 2080 Mega Watts. So the number is off by about a factor of 4 just for the Hoover Dam. Those are knowable numbers, easy to look up. So why the BS 341 hectare number?

  67. “In Florida, for instance, scientists calculated a solar farm the size of New York’s Central Park (341 hectares) could replace 26,520 hectares of the state’s hydro dams.”
    First I want to make my ignorance clear, I am not an engineer a geologist or a hydrologist. I haven’t visited every square inch of Florida. But, the square inches I have visited seem to be woefully lacking in dams. I have NOT seen a dam in Florida. I have lived in Florida since I was 3 years young. Silly me! I have always thought dams would have water that would flow down hill to power the generators. I stay in Lake County which has the 5th highest elevation in Florida of 312 feet above sea level, Sugarloaf Mountain. I can without a doubt, claim there is no dam anywhere near Sugarloaf Mountain. In the Florida panhandle is the highest elevation in Florida, Britton Hill, at 345 feet above sea level. Anyone care to bet there aren’t any dams at Britton Hill? So where are the dam 26,520 hectares of Florida’s hydro dams, dammit? Inquiring minds NEED to know.

    • They used the example of Florida because Florida has very little topography and so even the few dams that do provide some power do not provide much, especially when compared to the aerial coverage of the water impoundment areas.
      Since none of the reservoirs in Florida is especially deep, they cover large areas.
      Example: Lake Okeechobee is counted as a reservoir since without the earthen dike surrounding it, it would drain.
      There are some hydro dams in Florida, and can be found with a search, but the dams in Florida are not primarily for the purpose of power.
      In fact, no dams that I know of are primarily for power.
      Flood control, water retention, irrigation…these are the primary purposes.
      The proof is that most hydro plants only release as much water as is needed or can be justified for stream flow or to fill dams downstream.
      But one only has to learn about the history of these structures to know their primary purposes.
      And what occurs without them.

  68. Are we meant to just ignore they want to replace large lakes and all the wildlife and flora they support, with vast denuded areas where nothing can grow without interfering with the unreliables?

  69. “… and for now, it’s really just a thought experiment.”

    So this is what passes for research now? Come up with the most bonkers idea possible with research based off a lazy half hour of Wikipedia and cover your credibility with the disclaimer of “Just a thought experiment”.

    Honestly can anyone offer up another industry or profession that could get away with this sort of casual idea salad?

    Law Enforcement? – Just as a thought experiment, what if we brought in the legal system of Judge Dredd and let our police officers shoot criminals on the spot?
    Education? – Just as a though experiment, what if separated all the dumb kids from the smart kids at age 8 and sent them to training camps for manual labour?
    National Defence? – Just as a thought experiment, what if, in our national interest, not only invaded everyone who annoyed us, but also ripped up all those pesky conventions that prevent us from burning their cities to the ground?
    Energy? – Just as a thought experiment, what if we just ignored the EPA and built power plants where we wanted?
    Marriage Rights? – Just as a though experiment, what if we formally defined ‘Traditional Marriage’ as a new legally recognised concept that only ‘traditional’ couples were allowed to take part in?
    Type Setters and proof readers? – Just as a though experiment, what if we condensed LTGBQWERTY back down to a single letter in order to save space in documents?
    Conservative Government? – Just as a though experiment, why don’t we ready the Arts budget by 1% next year?

    Honestly, even as a Thought Experiment these people would be doxed on Twitter before their coffee had gotten cold with protest groups calling for their imprisonment before close of business. HOW DARE they say something so offensive!?

    If anyone else went off script with an abstract Thought Experiment their careers would be over, but somehow the junk science community thinks they can publish their bonkers ideas as actual legitimate discussion and research.

  70. ROFL – This was a joke – right?

    Replacing the ONLY good green energy (if you exclude nuclear) with a completely variable one (it’s variable EVERY SINGLE DAY without energy storage) that is a massive toxic waste issue waiting to happen is about as STUPID an idea as I have ever heard… AOC will be all over this one – writing it into some kind of mindless pledge for her New Green Energy Deal.

    Surely this was a joke. No one is this idiotic. NO ONE.

    Maybe they can invent little rubber duckies covered in solar power cells that somehow radiate their power to collectors along the shore – then they can have their lake and solar power too. Or…or…just use cold fusion technology on the lake water (using the little rubber duckies)!

  71. The article illustrates the appeal the topic has on the publish-or-perish pressure of academics. So they enter a topic they don’t really understand but peers will give the “green light” and not ask too many questions.

    Ah well, most have already shot holes in the “dam-” paper so what’s to add?

    Okay that last line “electrical lines that transmitted the hydro-power already exist at these locations and could potentially be re-purposed” does not sound viable to me. From what is known about the increased flux caused by solar variability, such infrastructure has to be renewed in most cases or at least a significant part of it. Something they’re already discovering in places where more and more private properties move to solar on block level. This extra expense is starting to jack the prices up or if not acted upon, weaken the reliability of local and regional power grids, causing black-outs more regularly. Warnings can be heard from the engineers managing the local grids.

    • But..But…But if the purpose of eliminating Hydro Electricity is to eliminate the CO2 and CH4 they produce just standing there, then the intent IS to remove the dams and return the environment to Pre Dam state.

      • You obviously didn’t read the sourced article in Science Alert or the first paragraph of this posting…
        “If all Hydro Dams were removed and replaced with solar panels…” Draining and removing the Dams and putting Solar Panels in their place (implied) was the entire purpose of the article.

    • Griff, who is kidding now – they just float solar on the dam reservoirs! ( as already done)

      What for then publishing an article.

  72. Why replace ? Put the solar on floating devices. Have both. Install pumps and there is a huge source. Then get subsidies.

  73. A much better idea would be to install floating solar panels on the dams and then you have both!

    Now where’s my grant?

  74. I have not seen anyone mention real estate value.
    So what if the land was low cost before the dams were built?
    I live in a community near a lake built by Duke Power (one of 3 in series).
    This lake is 26 miles long and has 300 miles of shoreline, virtually all of it “buildable”. Many of the homes are million dollar properties.
    Who reimburses the property owner if their home is now adjacent to a solar industrial site (don’t ever call them “farms”)?
    I would not be surprised if Carly suggested seizure by Eminent domain. It would be for the “common good” of course.

    • Better yet, imagine how wonderful it will smell if and when they drain those lakes.
      I guarantee it will not be pleasant.

  75. Renewable Energy (Wind and Solar) would be a great idea except they have no way to provide long term power storage. So basically these people who cant do math or engineering are proposing removing hydro which can provide long term power storage. Without long term power storage renewable energy does not work. Period. I am defining long term power storage as more than hours. The only low carbon ways to provide long term power storage are geothermal, hydro, and nuclear. And except for geothermal greens seem to be against all of them and seem to be insane.

    • BTW…we do have some great ideas when it comes to power, and even renewable power.
      They are FFs, dams, and nuclear.

  76. “Progressivism”, the leftist regressive form is like a perpetual motion machine, except instead of creating energy it creates stupid.

  77. In what part of America would solar work at night?

    ‘producing nearly three-and-a-half times the amount of energy hydropower currently generates’

    Double-ought zero times at night. Are people really this ignorant? It doesn’t seem possible.

  78. This idea reminds me of a movie title: Dumb and Dumberer.

    Out in the southwestern USA, summers are extremely dry, and dams are necessary to collect winter snow and spring runoff from mountains to provide fresh water for irrigation and human consumption during the summer and early autumn. Without dams to hold water from the wet season, many rivers would be completely dry during the summer.

    Hydroelectric power is basically a fringe benefit from the dams, whose true purpose is to distribute the availability of fresh water year-round. If the greenies want solar panels, let them put them in the desert, to capture the summer sun, but leave the dams alone, so that people have water to drink all summer!

  79. Water makes a much better surface for laying out solar panels than an uneven mud-pit…

    But I guess draining the huge lakes would be the only way to get rid of the thousands of fishing boats, ski boats, house-boats, and the millions of recreational users who would otherwise be shouting:

    “Put those damned things out in that thousand times larger empty desert next door and get them off of our precious WATER.”

    Of course it is tantalizing. Water is as essential to human prosperity as fossil fuels. The fraudulent “fossil fuels are killing the planet” alarm is really about trying to curtail PEOPLE, for which purpose getting rid of water would serve just as well.

  80. This was just “The Next Stupid Idea” to take your mind off solar powered roads, which was never going to work, while other madmen do away with the private ownership of cars and land

  81. The thought of getting rid of any fresh water source however its used is absolute stupidity. Stick ya solar panels in the desert /where ever .Besides I’ll bet those dams not only provide power ,but recreational dollars for the surrounding communities through camping,boating and fishing etc. Although its a thought experiment about area efficiency ,it is flawed only considering one product ,rather than total land use efficiency for the community .

  82. “I think that’s pretty astonishing and tantalising too,” John Waldman, an aquatic conservation biologist from the City University of New York, told Carbon Brief.

    Apart from the fact this is one of the silliest ideas ever even on the face of it, some of these dams have been around for a very long time and their ecosystems are stable. This “aquatic conservation biologist” apparently wants to destroy those environments.

    I think there should be a minimum IQ required before one can call oneself a scientist. Over 100 would be nice.

  83. Whomever suggested this, even thought of it, must be brainless. One only needs to look at the several countries that have a large percentage amount of hydro power and the ease at which these countries have Incorporated wind and solar to realize that we need more hydro not ZERO hydro.

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