Quick — before it goes behind the pay wall — check out this intriguing Wall Street Journal story on how plans to combat climate change could mean tearing up the wilderness.
The WSJ’s Jim Carlton points out that across the country, and particularly in the West, are streams where power providers would like to install small hydroelectric dams. From a climate-change standpoint, this is great: Carbon-free power! Enough to serve millions of homes! And often, no threat of NIMBYs, says the piece, datelined in Sultan, Wash., just up the road from InvestigateWest World Headquarters:
A big public utility is on the cusp of building a hydroelectric-power plant on a picture-perfect stream in the Pacific Northwest, but the plan has yet to draw the usual opposition.
That is in part because approved project, which involves building a dam on a tributary called Youngs Creek, is so small and remote that is has attracted little notice.
However, Carlton points out, the cumulative impact of actually building the thousands of these plants envisioned by power producers could have a substantial impact in the form of crisscrossing the backcountry with roads needed to build and maintain the dams.
The numbers cited by Carlton here in Washington state are instructive:
According to the U.S. Hydropower Resource Assessment for Washington state in 1997, more than 2,500 megawatts of power could be added by simply improving efficiencies at existing hydroelectric plants and adding hydro to non-generating dams, such as those used for reservoirs or agricultural irrigation. By contrast, the report estimated that developing all the state’s potential hydro sites, including small ones, would add only 762 megawatts.
Well, readers, what do you say? Is it worth the extra power to put all those roads into the wilderness?