10 pros and cons of hydropower you need to know

Hydropower is considered one of the oldest renewable energy sources for the purpose of generating electricity. Since ancient times, humans have used the flow of water to generate energy, and these are considered the first applications of hydroelectric energy in the history of human civilization. Today, this is considered one of the most important types of renewable energy used to meet human energy needs. Let’s learn about the pros & cons of hydropower.

Pros and cons of hydropower energy
Pros and cons of hydropower energy

What is hydropower? 

Hydropower is a form of energy generated from the force of water and humans have used this energy for many different purposes.

Some examples of hydropower include:

  • Hydroelectric dams
  • Tidal energy
  • Wave energy

Hydroelectric energy is considered the most ancient source of energy. Hydropower has been used since ancient Mesopotamian and Greek civilizations, where irrigation items have been used since the sixth millennium BC and water meters have been used since the beginning of the second millennium BC.

Other examples of using water to create include the Qanat system in ancient Persia and the Turpan aqueduct system in ancient China.

In general, hydropower can be considered the oldest and most abundant source of renewable energy with the use of natural water flows to generate electrical energy. We have been harnessing the power of hydro for far too long but do we know all about what it can bring us or the trouble it might cause, what are the pros and cons of hydropower, let’s learn more about the pros and cons of hydropower energy.

Hydropower from ancient time
Hydropower from ancient time

Pros of hydropower

A renewable energy source

Hydropower, especially with the energy coming from hydroelectric dams, is considered a completely clean and renewable energy source that is being used in most countries. Hydropower relies on water power in fast-paced water flows to set up generator turbines.

As a renewable energy source, hydropower is playing an important role in energy demand around the world. This energy contributes to the generation of electricity supplied to humans. In addition, hydro renewable energy also helps reduce the burden of the need for fossil energy. Therefore, choosing to use hydroelectric energy is a smart choice.

A renewable energy source
A renewable energy source

Low cost

The cost of generating hydropower is low. In fact, the initial investment cost, such as a hydroelectric power plant or a hydroelectric dam, is very high. But this is an investment in the long term, and compared to the benefits that hydropower brings, this is a cheap source of energy. In other words, this is a low-cost source of energy.

Once the plants and dams are finished with the turbines already installed, the cost is minimal.

Moreover, compared to other fuels, hydropower will not fluctuate in operating costs too much. Many countries have used hydropower as a way to save national coffers. In Paraguay, for example, almost all of the country’s energy comes from hydropower.

Clean energy

Hydropower is generated by water, so this is a clean energy source. Hydropower is a clean energy source because in the process of generating this type of energy, there will be a very low amount of carbon emitted. In addition, flexibility in supplying and storing hydropower requires less carbon energy.

Take the example of hydroelectric power plants generating electricity. In fact, compared to plants such as nuclear or coal as well as natural gas, hydroelectric plants can increase the production of large amounts of electricity without too much CO2 load. Therefore, hydropower is considered a clean energy source.

There is controversy over whether decomposing organic residues in reservoirs emit methane that causes the greenhouse effect. This debate has been resolved by scientific studies and technical analysis that have shown that the amount of methane emitted by fossil fuels in hydroelectric dams is negligible. And hydropower can be considered a type of clean energy.

Can supply the great demand

The potential for energy generated by hydropower is huge. Enormous masses of water flowing down from high places can create extremely abundant energy. Therefore, hydropower can generate significant energy sources enough to meet the electricity needs of millions of people. 

The reality is that just one large hydroelectric power plant is enough to generate enough electricity to meet the needs of millions of people.

In general, the flow of water can produce enough energy to meet the needs of many people. This also means that electricity from hydropower is the ideal source of electricity for today’s energy needs.

The ideal source of energy
The ideal source of energy

Can be used for irrigation

In the context that water resources for irrigation are gradually becoming scarce, hydropower plants seem to be one of the best solutions. If in drought weather conditions, reservoirs can be filled with water flowing from the hydroelectric station. This water source is clean enough for irrigation

The opening of hydroelectric dams, if properly planned, will help provide enough water for many different crop cycles and ecosystems. And water from hydropower for irrigation is completely considered suitable.

Hydropower plant water can be used for irrigation
Hydropower plant water can be used for irrigation

What are the cons of hydropower energy?   

Limited location choices

Hydropower is a renewable energy source but the reality is that the number of suitable locations to build hydroelectric plants or dams is very limited. In fact, only areas that are not located near big cities can be used as hydroelectric dams to be able to receive all the benefits from this energy source. This is one of the cons of hydropower.

In addition, the production of hydropower depends on where a sufficient amount of river water is needed to generate energy. And the amount of water from different places can vary, so producing more or less electricity will also depend on the location.

Damage surrounding environment

Although considered a clean and renewable energy source, hydropower can negatively impact the surrounding environment. This influence is usually through the construction of hydroelectric power plants.

And most importantly, the storage of hydropower or pumped hydroelectric systems will disrupt the natural flow of water. This will disrupt the migration path of some animals.

Hydropower as well as these dams reduce the natural flow and divert the flow. In addition, hydropower and hydroelectric dams also affect people as well as the population of organisms living in that area. Small hydropower plants will be managed more carefully so as not to cause environmental impacts.

Hydropower plant damage the surrounding environment
Hydropower plant damage the surrounding environment

Expensive upfront cost

The construction of hydroelectric power plants, hydroelectric dams and power generation turbines will require huge initial costs. Moreover, there are fewer and fewer suitable places that can be used to build hydroelectric dams, so the cost of building hydropower plants can increase even higher.

Expensive initial cost
Expensive initial cost

Can cause flood

The risk of hydropower causing flooding is there. Areas downstream will be vulnerable to flooding if the flow of water discharged from hydroelectric dams is too strong. And in the long run, the livelihoods of people living in downstream areas could be destroyed by flooding.

Can cause flood
Can cause flood

Reservoirs create dioxide and methane emission

Hydroelectric reservoirs are thought to produce large amounts of carbon and methane and these are the gases that cause the greenhouse effect. 

This is made possible by the fact that in hydroelectric dams, there are dead creatures that are rotten. When decomposing, the carcasses of these organisms react with oxygen which produces large amounts of carbon and methane, causing environmental pollution.

Dam failure can cause great consequences

Considering one of the biggest cons of hydropower. Dam failure can lead to the worst consequences. The safety of the dams is a top consideration. Dam failure can be dangerous for people living nearby. In the current era, terrorist acts are numerous and hydroelectric dams are the main target for carrying out plans to kill thousands of people. Therefore, the safety of hydropower dams in operation, or ensuring to avoid the risks related to dam failure should always be a top priority.

Residents living near low-lying areas could be hit by mortars if the hydroelectric dam breaks.

History has shown that dam failure has had serious consequences. Construction accidents, namely dam failures, have resulted in injuries and loss of life. Hoover Dam, for example, claimed 112 lives during construction. Or the terrible disaster in China with the Banqiao reservoir being destroyed by a typhoon in 1975 that claimed many lives.

Dam failure can be a huge problem
Dam failure can be a huge problem


The article “10 pros and cons of hydropower you need to know” has shared about the advantages and also disadvantages of hydropower. This is an excellent renewable energy source that can be used to meet today’s energy needs but the cons of hydropower are also plenty. Hope this article from Wapolabs has brought our readers a lot of useful knowledge related to the pros and cons of hydropower.


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