Find a flow and kill-o-watt it

There’s untapped power in flowing water. Without building dams and reservoirs, power plant promoters are looking for ample rivers to install new ‘variable speed’ power plants on the river bank.

Spiraling water down cavity pipe to spin turbines, the trick is to match the load on the turbine-generator to the flow of the river.

Run-of-river Patent 4674279General Electric says, “Run-of-river hydroelectric power is one of the most environmentally safe and commercially viable sources of electricity generation… a green method of power generation because of their small environmental footprint.” General Electric and Plutonic have permits for at least four Run-Of-River projects.

Green Power Corridor
Plutonic Power is paying attention to British Columbia, proposing 25 run-of-river projects to generate enough energy for a half million homes. Fortis is building a nonstorage plant in Central America. Ecuador is building riverbank power.

Developing non-polluting power generation from rivers may be sensible, but is it green?

Using moving water is more pollution-free. These new plants will have a smaller environmental footprint than traditional hydroelectric, but they are not small facilities. Hydro is popularly more sustainable than coal and oil, but there are other serious impacts, including hundreds of miles of new transmission corridors. Millions of tons of gases emissions are avoided, but the environment is not.

Replacing carbon intensive energy sources is smart, replacing other forms of generation which are less efficient is sensible, but we must not foolishly install hundreds of power plants on river banks.

Calling this technology “Green” might be a push. But we require electricity. Before recalculating for climate warming, merely for new air conditioners the USA requires the equivalent of 400 additional 500-megawatt power plants. That’s more than 1,000 riverbank plants!!

With new power plants on the river bank, utility agencies see untapped rivers as revenue. Now, that’s green!