Friday, February 26, 2010

HydroElectric Power - The Greenest of All

This article caught my eye (actually, my web watchdog's electronic eyes) and has some interesting aspects for the green movement. Hydro-Quebec (pronounced hee-drow) is a major producer of hydroelectric power in Quebec, Canada. HQ exports some of this power into the U.S., and is looking to expand those exports. However, they are running into opposition because the U.S. does not classify large hydro-electric power as renewable.

It is indeed strange, but sometimes laws are written with very strange twists. Hydro-electric power is the ultimate in low-cost power, because there is zero fuel consumed. The energy is provided by rain - and rain is free. Thus, there are zero emissions to the atmosphere, and no toxic radioactive spent fuel as is the case with all nuclear power plants. The big plus with large hydro-electric power is that the power is reliable and available on demand, when needed, as needed. Storms don't affect the hydro-electric plants, neither does cold weather. Solar and wind power plants are of course greatly affected by by storms and cold weather. And there are very few droughts in Quebec - it has very reliable and very much rain.

From the article, the average export price recently was approximately 6 cents per kWh, much lower than a new nuclear plant could ever hope to match (by a factor of at least 4!)

It makes too much sense for the U.S. not to import as much power from Quebec as they are willing to sell. Not for environmental reasons - CO2 does nothing to impact the climate or global temperature either up or down - but for economic reasons.

There is a reason that large consumers of electric power, such as aluminum plants, were built by hydro-electric sources of power. The low-cost and very reliable electric power helps the aluminum producers to keep their costs down, which is a win-win for everyone.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California


Ann said...

although you state that quebec hydro isn't subject to storms, you may have forgotten that relying on long-line transmission isn't optimal (remember the ice storm several years ago?). i note the complete absence of the human rights aspect, something that hydro-quebec counted on americans also dismissing as inconsequential when it lobbied the northeastern states in the 1990s to build James Bay II. And then there's this...

Roger Sowell said...

Ann, hydro power is no more vulnerable to storms (ice storms, you mention) than any other remotely-located power sources. Hydro is much more immune to snow and ice that bring wind-generated power to a halt, and solar power also.

Next, you mention a human rights aspect; perhaps you refer to relocating residences from flooded areas created by the dam? I'm not sure how that works in Canada, but in the US, the government has the constitutional right to take property for public use as long as "just compensation" is made to the private owner.

Not sure what point you have by linking to the article I already linked to initially.