Living in Michigan you would assume it to be a no brainer that if we could use water to create energy we should, right? Then why are hydroelectric dams throughout Michigan actually being removed? The main reason is many of the dams in Michigan are extremely outdated and don’t create enough energy to sustain much of anything. Dam building occurred early in the 1900’s until the mid 1930’s. The principle element of a dam is to utilize the natural flow of falling water to rotate a turbine that sends currents to a generator ultimately creating electricity. The volume of the water and the height from which it falls determines how many megawatts of electricity a dam can create. By the late 1970’s many dams across Michigan were shut down. Most were created to supply cheap electricity for lumber mills and small entities of the time. Lack of sufficient energy creation and their scattered nature has led to cease in use. Today many of Michigan’s dams are actually being removed. But does the cost outweigh the benefits?
The current attitude in Michigan is there is more value in removing the dams, than retrofitting them to restore hydroelectric production. Federal funds are more readily available for removing dams because of the positive environmental impacts. Dams have a detrimental effect on the natural flow and ebb of a river’s ecosystem. The removal of dams allows for normal sediment load dispersal and provides open passageways for fish to move up and down stream. However simply removing the dam doesn’t immediately restore the natural river channel alone. The circumstances differ greatly from site to site. Readings provided examples of altering river flow upstream or use of special culverts to mimic historical river tendencies and return the river channels to their previous states before the dams.
Overall I think Michigan should find a way to harness hydroelectric power because there is so much water around us. However the practice of damming a river and disrupting the natural ecosystems may have a much greater effect than providing cheap electricity. Also in the articles a new exploratory form of electricity creation with water was discussed. It is called hydrokinetic. It is energy created using the natural flow of water and can create power with turbines placed in a flowing water environment. This science is a better option because it produces cheap and clean energy from water without the cost of blocking, rerouting and disturbing the natural river ecosystem.
“Removing Dams is Best Option for a Healthy Aquatic Environment” http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10366_46403_59159-207826–,00.html
“Renewable hydroelectric power in Michigan” http://www.ferris.edu/energy/presentations/2010/Mich-Hydroelectric-James-Bernier-Consumers-Energy.pdf