Before hydropower became a widespread commercial energy source, it was used in a simpler manner to operate machines such as watermills, textile machines, and sawmills. In addition, the idea of hydropower was used in Imperial Rome when water powered mills produced flour from grain, and in India where water wheels and watermills were built. In China and the rest of the Far East, xpot wheelx pumps that raised water into irrigation canals were hydraulically operated. During the 1800s, when many canals were being built, hydropower was used to transport barge traffic up and down hills by the use of inclined plane railroads.
More recently, however, hydropower has been used as a mass produced clean energy supply. Hydroelectric power supplies about 19% or 715,000 MWe of world electricity. This has grown from 16% in 2003, and the trend points to an even greater increase in the coming years.
The advantages of hydropower are overwhelming as it produces essentially no carbon dioxide or other harmful emissions. Other energy sources tend to burn up fossil fuels which contribute to a raise in the CO2 levels. This can have an adverse effect on the environment and many believe that it contributes to global warming. In addition to being cleaner than other energy sources, hydropower is far less expensive to generate once the plants are in place. Another big advantage of hydropower is that hydroelectric dams have an ability to handle seasonal high peak loads. When electricity demand drops, the dam can store more water, and then when demand rises that water can be released which creates an abundance of energy.
Of course hydropower projects can have adverse ecological and environmental effects but with proper engineering designs these can be minimised. In any case the advantages outweigh the disadvantages by far.
Today the world boasts many massive and successful hydropower projects on all the continents of the globe including the Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, Aswan Dam in Egypt built by the Russians and regarded as an engineering marvel and several others in Africa, Asia, North and South America.
The Gansu Dam in China currently under construction is set to become the worldxs largest hydropower project.
Guyana, which has an abundance of hydropower resources, would have been on the hydropower road and a long way in solving our energy supply needs, but unfortunately the previous government abandoned the pursuit of the Tiger Hills project, the vision of the late President Dr Cheddi Jagan, for which the blueprint was out and financing and technical support were garnered as well.
The use of hydropower to meet our energy needs is logical because of our obvious abundance of this renewable resource and its associated economic and environmental friendly benefits, In any case, the price of fossil fuels inevitable goes through cyclical price hikes, apart from being a non-renewable energy source as well as their well known harm to the environmental.
But that is all history now and we have to keep looking into the future and in this light the recent disclosure by Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Guyana Power and Light (GPL), Mr. Winston Brassington, that despite some hiccups last year, the Amaila Falls Hydro Electric Project (AFHEP) in the Potaro River, was still very much on the cards.
He said that the Project had stalled because the bids submitted to the project developer in November last were much higher than the engineers estimated, a situation brought about by some steep increases in commodity prices which had occurred around that time.
He said however that the government met with the project developer, Sithe Global Power, earlier this year and hammered out strategies which could see agreements on reduced prices for AFHEP construction as well as sources for its financing by the third quarter this year.
He said that the price reduction strategies include negotiations with the bidders to reduce their bids based on the fall of international commodity prices.
This is encouraging news as Guyanese are anxiously awaiting the day when hydropower becomes a reality because for decades the absence of a cheap, abundant and reliable power supply have contributed to the holding back an economic take-off and the exploiting of our huge natural resources.