Some Challenges To Develop Hydropower

in StemSociallast year (edited)

As we know that Hydropower is one of renewable energy which is also expected to be used massively by countries in the world. with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, because unlike fossil fuel, Hydropower doesn't produce carbon dioxide as a side effect of the energy produced.


Image credit : Soukmano, From Pixabay

When compared with other renewable energy sources, such as solar energy. then the hydropower has its own advantages. as we know that solar energy is quite dependent on the intensity of sunlight as its energy source, although there may be some innovations to minimize this, but still in weather conditions without the sun for several days would have a real effect on the solar energy system. And also you need to consider that solar energy cannot be collected at night.

With the various advantages offered by Hydropower, it's not surprising that hydropower is one of the largest renewable energy sources today.


Image credit: Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser, Used under CC 4.0 License

Globally we see that hydropower is by far the largest modern renewable source [since traditional biomass is not included here]. But we also see wind and solar power are both growing rapidly.


However, in developing Hydropower there are several challenges as well as meaningful risks that the developers need to pay attention and handle. These challenges and risks can be the risk of damage due to natural factors, the environmental effects of the application of Hydropwer technology and etc.

Flood Risk

The risk of flooding is one of the biggest challenges in hydropower development. as you know, to produce hydropower we need a dam to hold water. The thing that becomes a problem if the dam that we build is damaged or collapse, which wouldn't only have an impact on technological damage but also on the surrounding environment and that must have resulted in a big loss

One of the biggest disasters in human history related to dam damage was the collapse of the Banqiao Dam in China in 1975. This disaster left 30 cities with an area of 12,000 km inundated and about 26,000 to 240,000 people died.

There are many factors that can cause a dam to collapse. storms, construction failures, earthquakes and etc. and these factors will always haunt any dam construction. there is no guarantee that dam collapse disaster will not occur, the fact is that dam collapse are recorded a lot.

These are some of the dam collapse events that occurred in the last 5 years.

  • The joint dam project between companies from Laos, Thailand and South Korea was destroyed after several days of heavy rains and monsoon winds, as well as allegations of construction failure. This project is planned as a source of hydropower in Laos with a capacity of 410 MW and got investment of 1.2 billion dollars.

Source : itsKimsTimes by KIMLAY Youtube Channel
  • 2 months ago the Uttarakhand Dam, India was destroyed by a glacier from the Himalayas. this caused extensive flooding in the area. This dam is also one of the hydropower development projects by the Indian government.

Source : Tripoto Youtube Channel

In fact there are many cases related to dam damage that have occurred. what happened in Laos and India is an example only that the risk of dam damage is still exist. and the impact would be enormous.

Impact on Fish

The construction of a dam for hydropower will actually disturb the biodiversity of the river. especially fish. Dammed river flow makes the fish lose their natural habitat. and As the water stops flowing, riverside habitats begin to disappear. This can even remove animals from accessing water.

Recent research on the impact of hydropower development on fish was carried out in the Mediterranean basin by nature conservation organizations EuroNatur and Riverwatch, together with Wetlands International Europe, GEOTA and WWF Adria. in that study it was found that there are 251 species of freshwater fish that are threatened with extinction and their stock situation in rivers in the Mediterranean basin. which is one of the Hydropower development sites, with 5,269 hydropower plants already operating and 202 under construction. and there are even plans to build 6300 hydroelectric power plants in the future.

That's not very good news. and Engineers need to pay attention and find a way to solve this problem. because it will be difficult to say that Hydropower is a renewable and environmentally friendly energy if it has an impact on the fish in the river.

Susceptible to Droughts

This is one of the big challenges that quite often occur in efforts to develop Hdropower technology. Moreover, natural conditions which are currently experiencing global warming, the risk of drought is very likely to occur.


Attribution: Gene Poole at the English Wikipedia, Used under GNU Free Documentation License

Wyangala dam near Cowra is being expanded by 650 billion litres, and a new Dungowan dam will be built near Tamworth to shore up water supplies. The projects were announced at the height of the drought in October 2019 as towns in NSW faced the prospect of running out of water


The risk of drought will always exist, and of course this is beyond the technical capabilities of engineers. however the downsides of this drought will be costly. for the initial development phase, the Hydropower infrastructure requires a big investment. so when the dam runs out of water, then it takes additional costs to overcome it.


Hydropower is a renewable energy that is currently widely used by humans. When compared to other renewable energy sources such as solar energy, hydropower has many advantages, one of which is the availability of its energy source, water which is far more abundant than the sun. However, there are several challenges as well as risks that need to be considered in developing Hydropower, because it can cause several negative impacts that will harm not only the developer, but also the society, and the surrounding environment.

The risk of dam collapse and causing flooding is one of the biggest risks that poses a challenge in hydropower development. It has been recorded that several dams were destroyed due to several factors, so it's a challenge for the developers to minimize and solve it. and also the importance of environmental preservation must be a concern as well as a challenge to truly create environmentally friendly energy.





Good article. There are issues with hydropower but it can definitely generate energy with very little costs. The thing that comes to my mind was the three gorges dam and the negative impact it caused. When the floods occurred, the floods were horrible. The neighboring countries were also facing droughts because of all the dams created and cutting off the flow of water.

Thanks @jfang003 Actually, the cost to build hydropower is quite expensive, but that's only the initial cost. overall it would be cheaper when compared to fossil energy infrastructure. as long as risks such as dam collapse and drought don't occur

Yes but I heard the entire flooding issue in China was blamed on the dams. Because they only started releasing the water when it was already too late thus causing the damage to be increased.

Renewable energy sources like hydroelectric plants, solar farms, and wind mill have environmental impact. As you point out in the text, hydroelectric plants may affect fish biodiversity in the area. This is the same goes to solar and wind. For solar, we need large open spaces for our arrays of solar panel, which may cause for some deforestation. On the other hand, wind kills substantial amount of birds over time. I think it is a trade off to wanting a clean energy. !discovery 15

Thank you @juecoree! Even though these energies are categorized as green energy, their infrastructure development will always have an impact on the surrounding environment. especially solar energy, it requires a very large area. the more energy we need, the more area for solar panels. and it provides an opportunity for environmental destruction.

That is why we can't go full on renewable hence the infrastructure requirement per Kwhr is high.

This is a hard decision, we are trying to reduce carbon emissions by leaving fossil energy such as petroleum and coal, but on the other hand, green energy development is not truly environmentally friendly and expensive.

Yes, it is. All technology has a disadvantage but we must weigh out which system brings less cons.

I remember you wrote about nuclear energy, do you think that could be a better solution? it's also one of the renewable energies, and I heard that the Philippines is trying to develop this energy, how is the progress?

It is a temporary solution for lessening the carbon emission and meet energy demand, but the risk associated is very high that developing nation can't afford to. The Philippines has a decade-old nuclear plant but we are not using it. Since its inception, it was not operated. The plant is in good shape but locals don't want it especially the media highlighting accident associated to nuclear plants. The politics in my country plays a lot in halting it. In terms of progress, it is too slow that even the audit wasn't roll out yet.

 last year 

Nuclear energy is the only way to meet rising energy demand before reasonable green alternatives can overtake them.

China, India, etc. are all doing it. It's being realistic. In the US, political figures like Andrew Yang is also in favor of realistic approach over idealistic ones.

Solar isn't going to overtake any of the current technology, in terms of meeting demands, any time soon.

I have the same sentiment as you, Media bloated the concept and promotion of solar energy, but in an engineering perspective, it can't keep up the energy demand and its costly. On the other hand, Nuclear is the realistic approach to lessen carbon emission and solve the energy crisis. Personally, I prefer a well balanced energy generation profile.

it seems our country has the same problem, we also have old nuclear plants, many people especially environmentalists reject the further development of nuclear energy because Indonesia is an earthquake prone country, so the risk is big.

thanks for highlighting all the environmental impacts of Hydroelectricity, there is always a trade-off with most things in life, but a pristine untouched wilderness, can be devastated by the construction of a damn, so sometimes the environmental costs outweigh the benefits.

One other development which is common now, is pumped hydro, where the water is pumped back up to the damn using off peak power (when electricity is cheap) and then generating the electricity during peak times. This is effectively a battery, and is a really good addition to an electricity grid particularly with wind and solar which aren't generating all the time.

One other development which is common now, is pumped hydro, where the water is pumped back up to the damn using off peak power (when electricity is cheap) and then generating the electricity during peak times. This is effectively a battery, and is a really good addition to an electricity grid particularly with wind and solar which aren't generating all the time.

You're welcome @notak, Actually, I'm not familiar with this technology yet, but the system works interestingly. I think this can be an alternative in the future. I also had time to watch on the Chanel Financial Times about the development of this technology in Australia, your tech innovation is developing very fast..

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