Solar power could replace all US hydro dams using ‘just 13% of the space’

(CarbonBrief, 26 Aug 2019) Banks of solar panels would be able to replace every electricity-producing dam in the US using just 13% of the space, according to a new study.

The researchers say this “surprisingly modest” figure provides a “tantalising” vision of what could be achieved if the nation phased out a power source that, while renewable, takes a significant toll on ecosystems.

As it stands, hydropower is an essential component in the nation’s power mix, contributing over 6% of its electricity and offering a flexibility that is not always provided by other renewables.

But with existing infrastructure nearing the end of its lifespan, and growing concerns about its environmental impact, US dams are increasingly being removed from service altogether.

If hydro dams are not replaced, other technologies will need to step into the breach, and the new paper – published in Nature Sustainability – suggests the mass rollout of solar power is a potential option.

While the researchers emphasise their results are “clearly theoretical”, they highlight the capacity of alternative renewables to replace hydro dams – which could also take pressure off disrupted US waterways.

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CarbonBrief, 26 Aug 2019: Solar power could replace all US hydro dams using ‘just 13% of the space’