Germany's Experience: How Effective Are Renewables, Really?

By Jens Lubbadeh and

Part 5: Hydroelectric Power

An offshore windpark off the coast of Germany. Zoom
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An offshore windpark off the coast of Germany.

The Principle

Flowing water, like wind, contains enormous quantities of energy which can be transformed into electricity with the help of turbines. The problem, however, is that in most cases, the water must be dammed, which creates disadvantages for both humans and the natural world.

Photo Gallery

8  Photos
Graphics Gallery: Germany's Renewable Energy Mix

The Market

Around 5 percent of Germany's power comes from hydroelectric facilities. The biggest advantage is that the process produces reliable energy around the clock. As opposed to wind and sun energy, hydroelectric power does not vary with the weather nor is storage a problem. Furthermore, it is relatively cheap. Most power plants need no state subsidies to be able to compete on the open market. Many, in fact, existed long before the EEG came into existence.

The Potential

In Germany, there is virtually no room for the construction of further hydroelectric power facilities. Almost all German rivers have been dammed and have been for quite some time. But outside Germany's borders, there is still room for improvement. Huge hydroelectric power plants are currently under construction around the world, many of them in developing countries. Many of these projects, however, have a questionable reputation, as immense new dams flood huge land areas. Often entire towns disappear under the waves, and their residents are forced to move elsewhere. Environmental standards are likewise often ignored.

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