Ethiopia weighs the multiple advantages of harnessing its hydropower dams potential

It is generally agreed that nothing is perfect on Earth. This claim includes the production of electricity the construction of hydro electric power dams. Hydroelectric-production facilities are indeed not perfect starting from the cost of building the dam up to the negative effects on the environment and local ecology. But if we weigh the advantages over the disadvantages we can see that there are a number of advantages of hydroelectric-power production as opposed to fossil-fuel power production.

Some studies indicate that over the last two decades, almost 1,000 hydropower dams have been built around the globe. Ethiopia, one of the countries in the Horn of Africa, has an abundance of hydroelectric resource potential that can meet the country’s energy demand. However, this energy resource has been underutilized, and the country has one of the lowest per capita consumption rates of electricity.

Currently Ethiopia is undertaking the construction of various hydroelectric power dams in various corners. Despite the huge sum of investment and the other challenges the country weighs the advantages over the disadvantages and is giving due attention for the development of the sector.

Recognizing that energy access and security are critical factors in economic growth, the country has launched a number of hydroelectric projects to meet rising energy demand, as well as a plan to export electricity to neighboring countries.

Hydropower is a clean source because it generates electricity without emitting greenhouse gases or other pollutants: it helps decrease fossil fuel consumption, thereby reducing air pollution and mitigating climate change.

And it provides renewable energy that is unlimited in time. This is because its sources, namely rivers and streams fed by the natural water cycle, are renewed. Furthermore, a hydropower plant does not take water away from the environment. That’s because whatever is removed is completely given back over time: its water footprint is therefore low.

It is also a resource that’s available in a great many countries, which can thus produce energy in a more self-sufficient and sustainable way, thereby reducing the need to import raw materials.

Hydropower is better for the environment than other major sources of electrical power, which use fossil fuels. Hydropower plants do not emit the waste heat and gases—common with fossil-fuel driven facilities—which are major contributors to air pollution, global warming and acid rain. The mining and drilling required to acquire fossil fuels for other power sources also have a significant negative environmental impact.

Many hydropower plants are located in the headwaters of river basins where they can help control the wide fluctuations in water flow commonly found in these areas. By increasing water flow during dry months these projects help to enhance aquatic habitats. Conversely, by reducing flow during periods of heavy runoff the plants can prevent damage to vegetation and wildlife along stream banks.

Faced with water availability that can vary over time, power plants are extremely flexible. Generating systems require a very small amount of energy in order to come on line, so much so that in a matter of minutes even a large plant can go from being idle to full power, and vice versa. This responsiveness depends on the type of turbine used and the management of water flows.

A pumped storage hydropower plant acts as an energy store: excess electricity generated by wind or solar plants when weather conditions are favorable can be used to pump water into the upper reservoir. Later, when there is no sun or wind, the water can be used in order to generate electricity through turbines. In this way, the hydropower plant has a stabilizing effect on the power grid.

A hydropower plant not only generates electricity, but it also interacts with the area in which it is located by contributing to its development.

First and foremost, it brings a clear benefit to the environment: the amount of water that is released (after generating power) can be controlled over time and with great precision, both in terms of flow rate and total volume. This means being able to regulate the flow continuously, thus greatly reducing the risk of flooding during heavy rains, which also benefits crops in irrigated areas downstream.

Hydropower plants help improve the health of waterways: on the one hand, the regularization of flows can help reclaim marshy areas by reducing the accumulation of standing water; on the other, the plant’s infrastructure retains branches, trees and other solid objects, thus facilitating the navigability of rivers downstream.

Pedestrian paths are created around a reservoir, for operational purposes, and these can also be made available for tourist use. Where possible, bicycle paths can be set up around dams, and this also enhances areas that often feature beautiful scenery.



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