18. "Lost Megawatts Flow Over Nation's Myriad
The Federal Power Commission (FPC) has determined that if 10 percent
of the 50,000 small dams in existence today in the United States were
developed, the energy equivalent of 180 million barrels of oil per year
could be saved.
Perhaps the greatest waste of hydroelectric potential is in New England,
the part of the country with the highest average fuel bills. There,
228 small hydro plants have been abandoned in the last 30 years. For
the last 150 years New England drew its energy largely from falling
water. Now there is diminishing reliance on these sites, due to "bigger
is better" sales talks by the large power companies. There is hardly
a state where dozens of old hydropower sites have not been abandoned.
Only 1,400 of our 50,000 small dams have been developed for power generation.
There are 343 flood control dams in the northeastern U. S., and many
of these could be made to accommodate power stations without compromising
their original function. The potential capacity of the navigation dams
on the Ohio, Arkansas, and Mississippi rivers could possibly be in the
millions of kilowatts.
Small and medium-sized projects (i.e., 5,000-20,000 kw) can be developed
at lower capital costs per unit and will produce energy at lower production
costs per unit than the huge new generating stations using less permanent,
less reliable, more hazardous resources: And they can be built quickly
compared to the ten to twelve years required for a nuclear plant.
These small plants could provide lighting for schools, streets, parks,
and other community purposes, at prices lower than the norm. They would
generate power at prices that would permit small industries to stay
in business and keep on employing people. More importantly, they would
allow people in communities to help themselves, to conserve nonrenewable
resources, and to, on a local level, bypass governmental energy policy
In view of our national energy dilemma and the shortage of coverage
this issue has received, this story deserves nomination for one of the
"Ten Best Censored Stories of 1977."
SOURCE: "Lost Megawatts Flow Over Nation's Myriad Spillways,"
by David E. Lilienthal (ex-chairman of the A.E.C., and presently head
of Development and Resources Corporation), Smithsonian Magazine, September
1977, pp. 83+.