With California in its current state of drought, the idea of using water as a renewable energy source has many people in sheer disbelief. How can water be considered as a sustainable source of power if we don’t have any water to spare? How can we generate hydroelectric power when water levels are so low? Many people think we can’t. According to The Sacramento Bee, statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show a 60 percent decrease in California’s hydroelectric power production between 2011 and 2014. CleanTechnica reported Brazil is suffering from such a massive drought that its Energy Minister just recently announced the government’s “intentions to begin a series of pilot tests of floating solar power plants on hydroelectric dam reservoirs within a period of four months.” This is despite the fact that Brazil traditionally gets upwards of 80 percent of its energy from hydroelectric sources.
So, does this mean hydroelectric power in drought-stricken areas have no future? Fortunately, it does not. One of the things people may not realize is you do not need a lot of water, nor does water need to be wasted to generate power. Various technologies exist to allow hydroelectric energy to be harnessed without wasting the water states like ours and countries like Brazil so desperately need. The key is in the execution.
When executed properly, existing water sources can be tapped to generate the hydroelectric power we need without causing significant damage or harm to the ecosystem. Take for example, this relatively new company – HeliosAltas. HeliosAltas has patented water wheel technology capable of producing low cost, zero emission power in as little as two inches of moving water.
The company’s “PowerBall Technology” can be used in existing canals, rivers, streams or any man-made or natural location where water flows. As the PowerBall needs very little water to produce a steady flow of energy, it can operate quietly near the water’s surface. This is unlike most hydroelectric devices which generally need to be fully submerged before being able to produce power. Due to the inherent design of the PowerBall and where these devices are placed, very little disruption occurs to the environment and the risk of blockage from debris is lowered.
Installation and maintenance costs are relatively low too, particularly for such a reliable zero emission source of energy. As the PowerBall water wheels can operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, this could potentially be a very green and sustainable source of renewable energy, even in areas plagued with drought.
CleanTechnica: Brazil Announces Huge 350 MW Floating Solar Power Plant
HeliosAltas: Helios PowerBall