Potential of Water Power in the Fight against Global Warming
Hydropower accounts for two-thirds of all renewable electricity production in the United States. A 2008 paper by the University of Missouri at Saint Louis, “The Potential of Water Power in the Fight Against Global Warming,” discusses the potential for hydropower in reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
The paper looks at the potential from new small and micro hydropower dams, increasing the capacity of existing large hydropower dams, adding generating facilities at non-hydropower dams and new technologies such as hydrokinetics. The cost-effectiveness of developing each type is examined as well as the energy potential by type and state.
The paper’s key findings are:
- Hydropower can reduce U.S. carbon emissions by between 8.5% and 50% of 2003 emission levels and satisfy as much as 50% of current renewable portfolio standard goals for 18 states.
- There is a large potential for small and micro hydropower development across the United States. Concentrating on just the most environmentally friendly sites would yield an increase of 75% from current hydropower production levels.
- Estimates of the potential for increasing the generating capacity of current hydropower facilities vary widely, from 8% to 50%.
- New generating potential from existing large dams (that are currently not generating any power) would add an additional 38% to the current hydropower capacity.
- Estimates of hydrokinetic potential are still very preliminary. Estimates have ranged between 23,000 megawatts and 400,000 megawatts.
The authors concluded by stating that “while water power will never be the complete answer to emissions-free energy production, a strong case can be made that it can be a useful part of the answer.”
Photo by American Municipal Power. Tags: greenhouse gases, water, infrastructure
Note to instructor: The suggested assignments are designed for flexibility. They can be used in whole or part and can be adapted to a particular task -- for example, the newswriting assignments could be applied to the writing of the headline, the lead, the nut graph or the full story. Material from the assignments could also be combined with other material, for example, in the writing of a background, feature or local-angle story.
Read the University of Missouri study titled "The Potential of Water Power in the Fight Against Global Warming."
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
Read the issue-related New York Times article titled "Retrofitting Dams to Generate Electricity."
- If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.