Harnessing the power of the movement of water is called hydropower or hydroelectric power (HEP). It’s the single largest contributor of renewable energy in the world, dwarfing the much more talked-about solar and wind. Of course, the other advantage is in its potential for multiple use through flood protection, irrigation potential, and offering more varied recreational opportunities.
Yet, hydropower has a dark side: it destroys river habitats, replacing them with artificial lake habitats which sets up a chain reaction of problems including increased evaporation (more surface area) and increased seismic shifts (the weight of all that water), increasing siltation of the reservoir, a decrease in fertile silt downstream, not to mention the problems surrounding the forced migration (politely called relocation) of people who lived in the area to be flooded, amongst others.
After Québec, Ontario is Canada’s second largest producer of hydropower. Approximately one-quarter (25%) of Ontario’s electricity is produced this way.
But, can hydroelectric power be done “right”? Read on . . .
BBC Future: The most powerful renewable energy