|A Dam in the USA blocks the upstream and downstream movement of fish. Here, sturgeon congregate at the base of a dam that is preventing them from swimming upstream to spawn (Photo by USFWS)|
Many green campaigners would have us believe that hydro power is easy on the environment but just how environmentally friendly is it ?
Amy Kober has written a thought provoking article on it :
If hydropower is not done right, it can be destructive for rivers and the fish and wildlife that depend on them. It damages natural habitat and prevents fish from reaching spawning grounds. It can dry up entire stretches of river. It’s the only renewable energy source that drives species toward extinction.
One could argue that wind turbines and solar panels could drive certain bird species towards extinction. There are environmental drawbacks with most renewable technologies just like there are with most conventional generation technologies i.e. there are no easy lunches.
In Ireland, our main hydro plant is Ardnacrusha operated by ESB. According to Dr William O'Connor, just 500 salmon passed through the fish pass there in 2013. I fully agree with him when he states that :
It is a national disgrace that salmon escapement through the Shannon dams has fallen so low, when measured by successes on other European Rivers with many more problems than the River Shannon has (i.e. Rhine, Thames, and Seine). There should and can be salmon in the upper Shannon.
Personally, I would not mind paying the PSO Levy if it went to compensate ESB for curtailing generation during times of peak upstream Salmon migration. Sadly, the PSO is going to less efficient and reliable sources, while salmon numbers in the Shannon continue to dwindle.