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Greenhouse gas impact of hydroelectric reservoirs downgraded
Date:8/1/2011

, with cold-water systems stabilizing more rapidly than their warm-water counterparts.

Lead author MSc. Nathan Barros, of the Federal University of Juiz de Fora further explains, "The bottom line is that per unit of energy, hydroelectric generation produces much less carbon dioxide and methane emissions than previously thought, but impacts are not equal across all landscapes."

The amount of greenhouse gases generated by hydroelectric reservoirs depends on where they are built, with the team's analysis indicating that emissions are correlated with latitude and the amount of biomass in the watershed. With Barros adding, "Reservoirs in tropical locations, such as the Amazon, emit more methane and carbon throughout their lifecycles."

Hydroelectricity supplies an estimated 20% of the world's electricity and accounts for more than 85% of electricity from renewable sources. Future development is expected globally.

The paper's authors urge careful consideration of site location and design. "During the environmental impact phase, it should be a goal to minimize the amount of carbon dioxide and methane emitted per unit of energy generated," Cole notes.

To truly tease apart the emissions generated by hydroelectricity, the authors also call for a study that assesses a site's carbon budget before and after reservoir construction. Pre- and post flooding analysis would clarify the net carbon impact of hydroelectric reservoirs.


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Contact: Lori M. Quillen
quillenl@caryinstitute.org
845-677-7600 x233
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Source:Eurekalert  

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