Whilst fooling around yesterday trying to avoid doing work and reading up on the world’s news via Twitter etc, a question popped into my head and sat there like an itch I needed to scratch, an itch to do with climate change and a very widespread, but often neglected form of green energy - hydropower.
As my mind wandered, I began thinking about what effect a globally warming world, with its extreme weather events, climate weirding and melting ice, would have on the frankly massive industry of hydroelectric generation. Would it act to reduce the effectiveness of dams, or actually aid in powering them up; after all, climate change has done some pretty unexpected things in its time, and we are only just scratching the surface of weather system interactions and seasonal skewing.
I decided the best course of action would be to check out a few published papers/journals (of which links are available to at the end of this post) and garner a simple answer to the question, in turn informing anyone who reads this of the conclusions I came to.
I went into this with two polarising thoughts. One, was that climate change, in this instance the global increase of temperatures over the next century or so, would act to reduce the effectiveness of hydropower through the evaporation of reservoirs, rivers and water sources, as well as a reduction in flow of the rivers/system feeding the dams. On the other hand, it may actually increase the power of HE, or at least cause no change at all, by increasing snow-melt, thawing seasons and rainfall, all of which would lead to higher river discharges and a larger water source for energy. So these were my two hypotheses so to speak.
From the three top-cited papers I checked out, there arises a conclusion common in the scientific world, one that I have seen many times over; it’s variable. Now I know this is not enough for a rigorous answer to be put forward, but these papers are at least some of the top in the field of study, and if anything I am attempting to urge further study into it by readers and myself alike, so a future post may probe further, but for now, I’m taking these as a starting point.