Importance of Foresight – Maximizing the Benefits of Dams
People have required water since man first stepped foot on this planet. The planet is seventy percent covered by water of one form or another. Recently, communities have constructed dams to store and use this natural resource for their own benefit.
There have been some magnificent dams designed and built all over this planet. Some with others without a lack of foresight. Some dams were constructed without considering population growth and urban sprawl, both critical issues for towns and cities of the future.
You may have heard from Urban planners and local authorities what their 2030 or 2050 plan is, considering various forms of growth. But these dams have multiple purposes—clean, fresh water for the community, of course, while, as a byproduct, generating electricity for the surrounding towns. But once the water passes through the turbines, it just goes down the river to the next dam and its surrounding community to harvest its potential benefits.
I’m not going to name and knock these single-use dams, but I would like to provoke your thoughts on how we can obtain better, more efficient dams, especially with today’s population and urban growth. Because the bottom line is it is all costs which you and I pay for as taxpayers.
Enter the example:
In Australia, after the Second World War, the federal government opened the doors to Europeans who wished to come and start a new life – no questions asked. But there was a catch: it wasn’t a free ride. They had to pay, and they did. Men had to commit to work on the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme for three years. Multiple significant dams were constructed from the top of Mt Kosciusko to the foot of the Murray River on the New South Wales / Victorian border.
But the designers of this scheme had foresight, knowing it only snowed for a couple of months a year. So, the excess electricity generated from these dams was used to pump water back up to the top dam, approximately seventy percent of the water going year-round until the next snowfall. The electricity generated from the various dams is in the giga-watt range and supplies Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and the rural towns in between. Approximately sixty percent of the Australian population, which is only twenty-four point six million (24.6m), are beneficiaries of this foresight.
In my language, this foresight is a God scent, as the capital outlay (as people were paid for their troubles plus the cost of the material) has been paid off many times. Who would benefit from this, everyone, if it was implemented globally? I have travelled the world and seen various communities that could benefit from this thought process, from Kenya and the Riff Valley, Texas, and their energy crisis, to South Africa and the troubles Eskom is going through, having to ration out electricity to communities, to name a few that is openly known through the media.
I have explained the big picture above; the small picture is reasonably achievable for the individual household with a creek or river running through their property. It may not be on the same scale as the community dam, but the principle is the same, just applied smaller. Suppose you have a watercourse passing through your property. In that case, it’s possible to create multiple mini dams close to the property boundaries, with spillways generating power into your own personal mini-power grid while re-routing a small percentage of the water back to the primary/original. It makes sense, does it, and works 24/7 and does not cost you a cent except for the initial construction/erection costs. Below are a few images of various hydro pumps that allow you to do this. Footnote: Various authorities around the world have different rules to construction of your own private micro dam, so check with your local authority first and confirm you’re compliant with local rules before you embark on this strategy.
Furthermore, this is just water energy; there is wind and solar. Have you asked yourself how rural farmers in India pump water into their fields without using petrol or diesel generators? It is elementary: they arrange two generators so one powers the other and then loop it back to power the primary generator, and it can provide either single or three-phase kilowatt electricity depending on the size of the machinery.
A recent study in the US found that a typical standard 4-bedroom house required a maximum of 26.8kw/hour of electricity to run per day. Through the use of water, wind, or sun, this energy load on the community can diminish and, instead of being a burden, can be a benefit as through the use of an inverter, excess electricity can channel back into the community, and the owners who do this even get paid for selling their excess electricity, meaning no or minimal monthly utility bill, just for having foresight.
North America, for example, is exposed yearly to hurricanes and tornados, plus onshore winds on three coastlines. Wind generators come in various shapes and sizes, mainly from Asia, and some are pretty small and can be placed on roof ridge lines or in your backyard. A good generator also has breaks, so when wind passes a certain velocity, the breaks stop the generator from burning out through excessive speed.
As outlined above, people should become self-sufficient and look after their own utility requirements to not burden the community through taxes being levied to cover these expansion costs. It would benefit all if our State and Federal governments pursued this pathway. I hear politicians expressing, “We haven’t got the funds in our budget to cover this,” again, lack of foresight. I would advocate governments enter into a limited fixed term PPP agreement for twenty or thirty years with strict performance criteria that benefit all, just not the shareholders of the private entity. If Governors or Mayors pursued this, they would be given recognition for many years to come, as infrastructure would not have to be continuously expanded to cover population and urban growth.