Hydroelectric Power Dams’ Environmental Impact

Hydroelectric power stations are established on land with different formations and their impact on the environment starts with land use, wildlife, and aquatic systems despite the positive aspects of the production of electricity and use on agriculture or irrigation purposes.

The land use problem emerges not only as a nuisance to hydroelectric dam construction, but also arises because from the continued use of the dam for the generation of electricity (Fearnside, 2). The sheer size of the dam and the topology of the land where the dam is constructed directly cause silt to accumulate in large quantities from the surrounding agricultural land which diminishes the value of the land for agricultural purposes. Besides, the surrounding ecosystem gets disturbed leading to the adverse impacts on the wildlife.

Wildlife cannot survive where human activities prevail. Here, hydroelectric dams, besides being used to generate electricity, provide water for agricultural irrigation, recreation, and act as the control mechanism for floods (Fearnside, 5). The effects on the wildlife extend several meters or kilometres downstream from the dam besides having a similar impact on the wildlife round the dam. Some segments of the rivers downstream can dry up and deny wildlife water that is necessary for life.

Empirical evidence has shown that dams support the growth of excess algae and other aquatic weeds. Large quantities of weeds introduce the problem of crowding out plant and animal life from the dam (Fearnside, 8). That is in addition to global warming is caused by the construction work from machines, during the installation and dismantling or machines, and during the operation of the facility.

In conclusion, besides the benefits that accrue from the use of hydroelectric dams, the adverse effects that emerge during the construction and operations of the dam include land use problems, wildlife destruction, and aquatic life.

Pros and cons for the use of wind power

Pros

  1. Renewable
  2. Clean source
  3. Cost effective

Cons

  1. Relies on wind
  2. Causes noise and visual pollution
  3. It is a threat to wildlife

The challenges that happen due to the use of fossil fuels, nuclear power, hydroelectric power among others to generate electricity underpins the need to develop wind energy as a source of electricity. The economic, environmental and economic viabilities of using wind energy for sustainable generation of electricity has proved to be viable despite the disadvantages associated with the use of technology (Zheng, Pan and Li, 13).

A comparative use of the energetic cost” as a metric to evaluate the viability of wind energy in comparison with other sources of electrical energy shows that wind energy is viable. The supporting argument is based on evidence of a significant increase of installed capacity of wind turbines.

For instance, the global capacity of wind power has increased by 4% by 336 GW in June 2014 and continues to increase in countries such as the Netherlands, China, and Germany, which have surpassed the U.S. However, load fluctuations, annual variation, time variations, and location differences, and other factors might adversely affect the production of electricity from wind power.

Difference between PV and CSP

The functionality of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) depends on concentrating radiation into a single liquid substance that operates with a focal line or on a single focal point in a linear Fresnel plant with parabolic troughs that direct heat into a heat engine, which is then heated to generate alternating current (AC) (Hernández-Moro and Martínez-Duart, 11). However, PV cells do not absorb heat from the sun, but depend on the photovoltaic effect of the incident rays from the sun to generate direct current (DC).

The technical assembly of a PV cell, which is an electronic device, consists of an inverter, PV module, utility meter, transformer, and battery. On the other hand, CSP systems are limited to where they can be installed while PV systems can be installed anywhere. PV systems can be used in small scale such as for domestic use while CSP systems are used in large scale systems.

Is nuclear power sustainable?

In an endeavour to deal with the increasing demand for energy, investment in nuclear fission is a promising option (Jayakumar, Mathew and Laha, 10). Nuclear fission is sustainable in the long term and it is environmental friendly compared with fossil fuels, despite the persistent problem of disposing nuclear wastes. The safety of nuclear power plants is of paramount importance due to the threat of terrorists, environmental catastrophes such as those that happened in Japan and in Russia.

While scientists argue that accidents that happened in nuclear sites such as the Three Mile Island accident (1979), Chernobyl accident (1986), and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (2011) among others could as well be compared to other natural accidents, nuclear accidents expose human health to serious health hazards causing psychosomatic medical problems, anxiety, depression, and isolation.

Nuclear power stations have low power costs of operation despite the high capital costs of construction. Most of the nuclear power stations are government owned and the long term costs of sustainability have not been divulged properly. However, the technology is sustainably viable a sustainable.

On the political context, there is concern that some countries such as North Korea and Iran might try to acquire nuclear weapons in the pretext of constructing nuclear power stations. Other countries in unstable political environments are vulnerable to nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorists and that could be disastrous.

Despite the ethical concerns on the use of nuclear bombs to decimate the lies of enemies and the premise that countries have the legitimate right of defense, it is imperative to note that nations should value the lives of everyone including their enemies to uphold the peaceful existence of lives. Despite the ethical, social, environmental, and technological concerns, it is evident that nuclear energy is the way to go for now.

Difference between nuclear fusion and nuclear fission

The material argument by Zinkle and Was shows that nuclear fission occurs when a large atom is split into smaller particles while nuclear fusion is the process of combining two lighter atoms into a single heavier atom (7). Here, examples include the fusion that occurs in the sun and stars resulting in fewer radioactive particles. For fusion to occur there should be a high temperature environment and extremely high pressure. However, large amounts of energy are needed to trigger a fusion reaction. Besides, fission does not occur naturally, but it releases large amounts of energy along with harmful radioactive particles.

Works Cited

Hernández-Moro, J., and J. M. Martínez-Duart. “Analytical model for solar PV and CSP electricity costs: Present LCOE values and their future evolution.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 20 (2013): 119-132. Print.

Fearnside, Philip M. “Carbon credit for hydroelectric dams as a source of greenhouse-gas emissions: The example of Brazil’s Teles Pires Dam.” Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 18.5 (2013): 691- 699. Print.

Jayakumar, T., M. D. Mathew, and K. Laha. “High temperature materials for nuclear fast fission and fusion reactors and advanced fossil power plants.” Procedia Engineering 55 (2013): 259-270. Print.

Zheng, Chong-wei, Jing Pan, and Jia-xun Li. “Assessing the China Sea wind energy and wave energy resources from 1988 to 2009.” Ocean Engineering 65 (2013): 39-48. Print.

Zinkle, Steven J., and G. S. Was. “Materials challenges in nuclear energy.” Acta Materialia 61.3 (2013): 735-758. Print.