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Reducing greenhouse gas emissions of Amazon hydropower with strategic dam planning

September 19, 2019

Hundreds of dams have been proposed throughout the Amazon basin, one of the world’s largest untapped hydropower frontiers. While hydropower is a potentially clean source of renewable energy, some projects produce high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per unit electricity generated (carbon intensity). Here we show how carbon intensities of proposed Amazon upland dams (median = 39 kg CO2eq MWh−1, 100-year horizon) are often comparable with solar and wind energy, whereas some lowland dams (median = 133 kg CO2eq MWh−1) may exceed carbon intensities of fossil-fuel power plants. Based on 158 existing and 351 proposed dams, we present a multi-objective optimization framework showing that low-carbon expansion of Amazon hydropower relies on strategic planning, which is generally linked to placing dams in higher elevations and smaller streams. Ultimately, basin-scale dam planning that considers GHG emissions along with social and ecological externalities will be decisive for sustainable energy development where new hydropower is contemplated.

Publication Year 2019
Title Reducing greenhouse gas emissions of Amazon hydropower with strategic dam planning
DOI 10.1038/s41467-019-12179-5
Authors Rafael M. Almeida, Qinru Shi, Jonathan M. Gomes-Selman, Xiaojian Wu, Yexiang Xue, Hector Angarita, Nathan Barros, Bruce R. Forsberg, Roosevelt García-Villacorta, Stephen K. Hamilton, John M. Melack, Mariana Montoya, Guillaume Perez, Suresh Sethi, Carla P. Gomes, Alexander S. Flecker
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Nature Communications
Index ID 70226697
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Leetown