Dams have been used as sources of hydroelectric energy for many years. In 2006, the body of the largest hydroelectric plant was completed in Yichang, China. By October of 2008, the original plans for the dam were complete with 32 generators working to create energy. Additional turbines were added to the original plans and should be complete no later than 2011. From October of 2008 until September of 2009, the plant produced enough energy to cover nearly 1/3 of the total production cost at nearly 350 terawatt hours of electricity, but what is the price local people and ecological systems have to pay for this energy?
Flooding caused by damming up the Three Gorges river caused more than one million people to lose their homes. Local ecological systems are being damaged and destroyed and the risk of landslides has increased dramatically. Still, the dam remains the single most productive hydroenergy plant in the world. The damage to local ecosystems defeats the purpose of producing alternative energy.
Ultimately, the world needs the power water can create, but destroying the Earth in the process is not an environmentally friendly option. In addition to the damage created by the dam itself, substations and super electrical lines need to be installed in order to move the created energy to the people who can use the power. This results in an even larger carbon footprint on the earth.
The United States, Canada and British Columbia are learning from this type of destruction. Micro-hydropower plants are currently the focus of these countries. Microsystems may provide a fraction of the total output, but local environment is preserved.