Deforestation Dries Up Dams Threatening Hydropower

Illegal logging in the Cardamom Mountain, Koh ...

Illegal logging in the Cardamom Mountain, Koh Kong Province, Cambodia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From ENN Deforestation may lead to electricity shortages in tropical rainforest regions that rely heavily on hydropower, as fewer trees mean less rainfall for hydropower generation, a study shows.

For example, if deforestation continues, one of the world’s largest dam projects in Brazil will deliver around a third less energy than is currently estimated, according to the research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) last week (13 May).
Researchers had presumed that cutting down trees near dams increases the flow of water and hence energy production. This is because crops and pastures that replace trees take less water from the ground and lose less moisture by evaporation.

But trees also release water vapour into the atmosphere, which turns into rain and feeds hydroelectric power stations, and this new research suggests that wider deforestation can reduce overall rainfall and therefore energy production. This should be taken into account when planning hydropower developments in tropical regions, say the authors.

English: Bratsk hydropower station. Hrvatski: ...

English: Bratsk hydropower station. Hrvatski: Bratska HE. Русский: Братская ГЭС. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lead author Claudia Stickler and colleagues looked at the link between trees and power generation at Brazil’s Belo Monte hydropower complex, which is being built on the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon. It is set to be the third largest hydropower project in the world when it is completed in 2015 and is expected to supply 40 per cent of Brazil’s energy needs by 2020.

They found that because of current levels of deforestation in the Amazon region, rainfall is already six to seven per cent lower than it would be with full forest cover.

“If forest loss doubles by 2050 — that is, if 40 per cent of the Amazon or Xingu river watershed has been deforested by that date — rainfall loss will reduce Belo Monte’s energy production by one third over that projected,” Stickler, a researcher at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute’s International Program in the United States, tells SciDev.Net.

She says that such a degree of deforestation is plausible based on government infrastructure plans in the region.

Continue Reading at SciDev.net

Advertisements

One thought on “Deforestation Dries Up Dams Threatening Hydropower

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s