Thursday, February 24, 2005

Hydroelectric power's dirty secret revealed

"[P]lant matter settling on the reservoir's bottom decomposes without oxygen, resulting in a build-up of dissolved methane. This is released into the atmosphere when water passes through the dam's turbines.

"Seasonal changes in water depth mean there is a continuous supply of decaying material. In the dry season plants colonise the banks of the reservoir only to be engulfed when the water level rises. For shallow-shelving reservoirs these 'drawdown' regions can account for several thousand square kilometres."

If problems like these prove insurmountable, perhaps "fringe" energy sources like fusion and (gasp!) Zero Point Energy are the way to go. Although I'm still not ready to write off Gerard K. O'Neill's orbital solar farm concept. Neither, it seems, is SF writer Ben Bova, whose new novel "Powersat" delves into the physics and politics of beaming energy to Earth from space.

Add another book to my "to-read" list . . .


W.M. Bear said...

Dam methane! Too bad it can't be collected somehow.