“Giving old dams new life could spark an energy boom”

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The Story

“Giving old dams new life could spark an energy boom”
by Christopher Iovenko
Washington Post, May 6, 2022

The Pitch

A Dam Good Idea?

The US has some 90,000 dams spread across the country and although only 2,500 of those produce electricity they account for a crucial 37% of renewable energy production. The non-hydroelectric dams were built for a large variety of reasons from creating recreational reservoirs to flood control and navigation. In a rare instance of a win-win for both environmentalists and hydroelectric power companies, there’s a new push to retrofit some of these dams as hydroelectric power sources, and Biden’s Build Back Better plan has funds earmarked for this purpose. Since the dams already exist there isn’t an environmental trade-off to converting them and hydroelectric, which unlike wind and solar can provide energy around the clock 7 days a week, will play a major role as America transitions away from coal and gas toward renewable energy production.

Further, climate change-related extreme weather events are stressing and in some cases destroying often neglected legacy dams that were designed and built in eras that long predated the current climate crisis. This aging infrastructure is sorely in need of safeguarding and modernization, a process that would be rolled into upgrading them to hydroelectric plants.  In the purposed article, I would examine both the advantages as well as the practical and fiscal challenges to converting existing dams to hydroelectric. I would also look at the role hydroelectric plays in renewable energy production and how that role will likely need to be expanded if individual states, as well as the country as a whole, are to meet their ambitious green energy goals.

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