Solar power is becoming so competitive it is now challenging another renewable energy source: hydroelectric dams. Dams were the champion power source for most of the previous century, but some of their environmental impacts are becoming too apparent to ignore: too much silt trapped and too little downstream, interrupted migration patterns, significant evaporation losses, etc. One study estimated the area of solar panels required to generate the same amount of electricity as dams: 530,000 hectares, over 2,046 square miles, a square with sides longer than 45 miles. That sounds like a lot, but dams frequently produce power by creating reservoirs. Those reservoirs cover almost eight times as much area: ~4,000,000 hectares, 15,444 square miles, a square with sides over 124 miles long. This isn’t an all-or-nothing proposal. It does, however, demonstrate opportunities that are more sustainable, as well as enabling environmental remediation without diminishing energy production. A more likely scenario is a mix of the two: partial draw down of a dam, partial installation of solar panels, and using the remaining reservoir capacity as a potential energy battery, as well as flood and irrigation control. As dams are already being removed, the opportunity to regain their power is becoming a significant possibility.
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“That sounds like a lot, but dams frequently produce power by creating reservoirs. Those reservoirs cover almost eight times as much area: ~4,000,000 hectares, 15,444 square miles, a square with sides over 124 miles long.”
Putting this into perspective makes a world of difference. Floating solar is indeed a viable option. I am intrigued by the idea of mixing the two options of solar and hydro. Great post!