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Print 35 comment(s) - last by Nervenkrieg.. on May 20 at 2:52 PM

If you close coal plants and don't build nuclear, what are your options?

The Canadian province of Quebec recently started construction on a major new hydroelectric project that will cost an estimated $6.5 billion dollars (CAD). The Romaine Hydroelectric Complex will have 1550 MW of capacity and produce 8 terawatt-hours of electricity per year. Consisting of four power plants when completed, it will be able to supply electricity for 450,000 households.

Much of that power could end up in New York state and New England. Hydro-Quebec, the province's public utility, generates over 95% of its electricity from hydropower. It currently exports 21.3 terawatt-hours of electricity per year to Ontario, New York state, and New England, generating over $1.9 billion CAD in revenue for 2008.

Several factors are leading to increased hydroelectricity imports. The Obama administration’s policies on renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions trading, and the shift away from coal power plants means that hydroelectricity becomes more attractive to municipalities. On the other hand, growing power consumption along the eastern seaboard means that new and replacement power generation must be brought online quickly.

The Luther Forest Technology Campus in New York state's Capital Region is expected to require large amounts of power. GlobalFoundries is planning to build its Fab 2 CPU plant there, and GE Transportation will build a new battery plant in the region to support its hybrid-electric vehicle efforts.

Hydroelectricity is a source of constantly available baseload power during the day and night. Baseload power is currently only available from nuclear, coal, natural gas, and hydroelectric sources. Solar and wind power require large amounts of reactionary power from coal and/or natural gas plants to ensure stability in the electrical grid and power supply chain.

Hydroelectric dams usually raise environmental concerns due to flooding needed to create reservoirs for the dams. Over $200 million has already been spent or budgeted on environmental studies, attenuation measures, and environmental monitoring, which is planned to continue until 2040.

Power from the project will be initially available by 2014 and all construction will be completed by 2020.



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RE: Dams are bad for the enviroment
By drycrust on 5/19/2009 3:03:52 PM , Rating: 2
I totally agree with your comment on CO2. Pretty well every air breathing thing is breathing out CO2, even plants do it at night. I just can't see what all the fuss is about. Yes, I can see dangers with the other emissions from burning of fuel, but water and CO2 are natural emissions. If nature couldn't cope then we'd have all died years ago.
In regards to the environmental impact, I wonder if there is a maximum size a hydro dam can be before it starts to impact the earth's crust. There seems to be lots more earthquakes around the Three Gorges Dam than one would expect.
In regards to the cost of building the dam, I heard a radio report many years ago regarding the "total energy content" of a 1970s technology nuclear power station. Basically, if you looked at the total energy used to extract and refine the nuclear material to a suitable level of radioactivity, the amount of fuel needed to build a nuclear reactor (including the extraction and refining of steel, making concrete, etc), and the fuel and electricity needed to run it and to dispose safely of the waste, after 20 years you have just made a small profit in terms of total energy.
I don't know how long it will take to pay off the energy put into a hydro-electric dam is, but the impression I get is they are pretty low maintenance and don't need large numbers of staff to run them. Even if it took 20 years to pay off the energy put in, which I doubt, after that it's pretty much profit all the way.


By Nervenkrieg on 5/19/2009 5:06:28 PM , Rating: 2
I know of a dam that has an annual operating budget of $13 million. Generating up to 950 MW, can bring in 120-200 million per year, depending on flow and the market. The total cost of the project was almost $418 million in 1970 dollars.
The carbon footprint that the dam offsets is large, approx 3 million tons of CO2 per year. Some river dams allow barges to travel inland, offsetting the need for thousands of semi trucks. Barging decreases traffic, CO2 and the need to build/maintain more highways.
Is the savings worth the potential environmental impact?


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