The future of hydroelectricity
Despite being one of, if not the, most widely used sources of energy worldwide, hydroelectric power has become a controversial source of energy over the last few decades.
Although hydroelectricity is a renewable – and clean – energy that naturally replenishes on the human timescale unlike oil, gas and nuclear power, manufacturing and building a dam plus the installation of the turbines are expensive. They also disrupt local ecosystems, affecting natural river flow and in some cases, displace many local communities.
Scientists and economic sector players are continuously figuring out how to make hydropower energy more sustainable for future generations and address environmental and social concerns worldwide.
One of those still optimistic on the future of hydroelectricity is Shuhei Momose from Toshiba Corporation.
During one of the talks given at International Energy Week (IEW)’s Technology Symposium on Jan 28, Momose shared his views on the future of hydropower, also finding time to respond to former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad’s comment a day earlier.
While delivering his keynote address in conjunction with IEW, Dr Mahathir suggested that Sarawak should consider building cascading hydroelectric power (HEP) dams instead of the mega conventional HEP dams as their designs can impact vast tracts of land and forests.
Cascading dams, however, can be more costly because they require concrete walls needed to be built along both banks of the river.
In response to that, Momose said “I think we have solutions for that. The solution is adjustable speed turbines.”
He explained that conventional and traditional turbines could not operate at peak efficiency when needed because the rotation speed of the turbines’ blades are not adjustable whereas adjustable speed turbines, a technology developed in the mid-1990s can regulate the amount of energy absorbed, facilitate energy storage when power levels are low, making the hydro energy plant more efficient.
He believed the future of hydropower was bright but we still needed to consider its environmental impact.
“In World Energy Outlook 2014, it was reported by 2040 renewable energy is greater than any power source even more that coal, gas, nuclear and oil,” Momose stated, adding that half of the renewable energy in 2040 will be hydropower.
Continuing to cite the report from International Energy Agency, Momose said for the next 25 years hydro investment will be greater than coal, solar, nuclear, and gas.
“A cumulative world investment of USD1900 trillion in the power sector from 2014 to 2040 will go to hydropower. Second largest investment after wind,” he said.
Momose assured the participants that Toshiba Corporation will continue its work in research and development in order to provide excellent machinery in hydropower.
According to him, Toshiba was commissioned to work on Batang Ai Dam, Sarawak’s first hydroelectric powered dam back in 1982 and Murum will be their second project in the state.