Christopher Law tells us [More power options needed, Jan. 10 Letters, TIMES] that we must expand our capacity to create electricity in order to meet the needs of our growing population.
He goes on to state that "Wind, runof-river, and solar energy have all made quantum leaps in recent years and all can help to meet B.C.'s power needs with increasingly negligible impacts."
Advocates of run-of-river like to call these projects green, and I can only assume that this is why Mr. Law slipped run-of-river in between solar and wind energy options.
It's pretty disingenuous in my opinion. The first thing to understand about runof-river projects is that they give us extra power precisely when we don't need it.
Hydro-electric power is not steady power. An excess is made when the rivers are running high and far less is generated when rivers run low. Because electricity can't (yet) be stored, highly polluting coal-fired plants are put into commission to make up the shortfall during the offseason.
It's this type of electrical generation we need to find alternatives for as soon as possible since burning coal is highly polluting and increases greenhouse gases.
Run-of-river projects will generally require roadwork where none currently exists and this affects the real or potential recreational value of the land in question.
Run-of-river projects reduce salmon runs, which creates adverse effects on upstream habitat. (Scientists are learning more and more about the importance of healthy runs of returning salmon as a source of nitrogen for forest creatures such as bears. Without the nitrogen supplied by decaying salmon, the habitat loses much of its richness and diversity.)
Mr. Law touches on the possibility of selling electricity across the border to help pay for public services.
Sounds good in theory, but it turns out that some states have enacted green electricity laws that would ban a lot of our electricity from crossing the border.
These laws have kick-started large wind projects south of the border that make it very unlikely that the U.S. will need our imports again.
Solar, tidal, wind, and geothermal power generation all have the potential to create power when it is actually needed rather than when we are already overflowing with electricity.
This is why they have much better potential to complement the large dams built by previous generations.
Research on ways to store excess electricity is ongoing and also provides us with some hope for a completely different approach in the future.
Meanwhile, let's think really hard before we create more irreversible harm by blasting out riverbeds for energy we may not need, probably can't sell, and should be producing differently.
Elizabeth Rosenau, Maple Ridge