Long before the political quest for renewable resources, hydropower provided reliable energy to most of the West – and lots of it. But it came at the cost of a massive effort to dam the Colorado, Columbia, Missouri, Snake and almost every other major river in the region.
By Jamie Bedwell, guest writer at NewWest.net
Dams provide enough energy to power millions of homes and they irrigate huge swaths of land. The Hoover Dam alone produces over 2,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to power more than 2 million homes by itself. Compare that to the largest wind farm in the world, which generates less than half that amount.
Although hydropower is by far the most widely used renewable resource, the political push to diversify renewable portfolio standards in the U.S. has shifted the focus from building large dams to upgrading operating capacity at existing ones, and building smaller hydropower plants that affect the waterways less.