Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wind Gluttony and Hydro Greed


Forbes has a report today on The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), being forced to abandon plans to limit wind output in periods of extreme oversupply. 

I noted in a previous post a New York Times Blog entry that explained the BPA can't spill water to avoid generating power; “Water that goes over a spillway as opposed to through a turbine picks up bubbles of nitrogen gas from the atmosphere. When baby salmon absorb the bubbles, they experience something resembling the bends in a human diver.” In a display of sanity, the BPA stepped up monitoring and planning, including the regular display of balancing load, wind, hydro and thermal generation. The current snapshot is instructive; it shows huge exports made possible by enormous hydro supply, with a production trend that matches the load profile. Wind is used too, but the wind trend is balanced by thermal – as is the case everywhere wind has significant penetration.

Maybe the salmon were only considered in 2010, duing the UN's International Year of Biodiversity. I read portions of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing report last week, and I was struck by “Average maximum fish lengths shrunk from 111 cm. in 1950 to 55 cm. in 1994 to 46 cm. In 2006.” I've never been accused of being a fish-hugger (at least not to my face), but that seemed alarming.

This past weekend, “Hydro power's dirty side” explored the Romaine River project which is to include, “four new dams, seven dikes, giant spillways and canals and 279.2 square kilometres of reservoirs.” The article claims that following the Romaine appetizer the Petit Mecatina and Magpies will be devoured, and with their harnessing, “everything dammable will have been dammed.”

The Guardian's environmental blog added to the hydro examination with an entry on a pending Mekong River dam.. The Xayaburi dam is proposed in poor Laos, primarily to feed Thailand electricity. There's a cursory concern to the impact on the river who's fishery is the main source of protein for 60 million inhabitants of the area. If they can get the first dam built, Laos plans many more, and Cambodia and Vietnam wouldn't mind getting in on the game too, and China is refusing to deal with the 4 downstream nations as they have dams upstreams near the source of the Mekong. It can't be easy to put a price on species of catfish larger than cars, and stingrays heavier than tigers, but in a world where a couple of hundred of poorly labeled 'green' MW's trump salmon, it would have to be under 1250MW of hydro must be worth it.

Hydro is becoming another area where power can be chosen to replace a source of food – and almost certainly the cause of lost biodiversity.

There is a lot of ink spilled on the unfortunate neighbours of the Fukushima Daiichi site. I do not know when, if ever ,they'll be allowed to return home. I'm fairly certain there will be a lot more people in Laos, Vietnam, and China, displaced due to hydro projects, and there will be a larger loss of habitat in Quebec due to newly created reservoirs.

8 comments:

  1. http://blogs.forbes.com/williampentland/2011/04/18/grid-operators-drop-plan-for-rolling-wind-farm-outages/

    Forgotten link?

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