Not a day goes by that some aspect of alternate power isn’t in the news, but it’s nearly always solar and wind turbine generators getting all of the attention. Meanwhile, companies like Verdant Power have quietly been going with the flow — the flow of water, that is. There are several reasons why hydro-generation isn’t getting the attention it deserves. The most obvious one is that it’s not seen. Hydro-electric generation occurs under water, so it’s not in anyone’s view. Other reasons include that government regulations are heavy on waters, especially those classified as Federal Waterways. It can take a lot of bureacratic wrangling to gain permission. Verdant Power had to spend something like two million dollars just to prove that their blades weren’t cutting up fish. (It would seem the fish were smarter than the bureaucrats, at least in this case.) And then there’s the simple reality that things corrode in water.
The rewards still far outway the dampers on hydro-electric generation. One reason is that water’s greater density allows it to generate a lot more electricity with the water’s currents than if the same turbine were in the air — hundreds of times as much. (Think in terms of hydrofoils, and how so small a piece of “wing” can lift a man right on up out of the water, and you’ll begin to see how much more powerful moving water can be.) And then there’s discretion. Situated under water pretty much dispenses of the “not in my back yard” opposition.
No one single alternate source may create enough energy to free us from fossil fuel dependence. It will take every resource we can conceive of to do that, and at least a little bit of redesigning the devices we use to be more efficient in their use of energy. Collectively, though, we can accomplish that independence. Hydro-electric generation most certainly has a much bigger place at that table than we’ve been giving it so far. It may be time to ask our legislators to clear the way for hydro-electric generation which does not involve damming up Federal Waterways. There’s a lot of power in going with the flow.