Showdown: Solar Energy Vs. Hydroelectric Energy

showdown solar energy vs hydroelectric energy

Hydro and solar technologies are two tried and tested types of renewable energy. Both these technologies provide significant benefits to the environment compared to fossil fuels to generate energy. However, each of them also has its potential drawbacks.  In this article, we compare solar energy and hydroelectric energy in terms of cost, availability, environmental impact and flexibility.

Cost Considerations

In terms of production costs, hydropower has an advantage over solar energy. The Department of Energy in the United States named hydropower the most common and cheapest form of renewable energy in the country.

Hydroelectricity accounts for six percent of all United States energy production. When it comes to renewable energy in the U.S, it constitutes 70 percent. Even if solar prices have dropped and continue to drop, solar installations still cost a lot of money.

Availability and Access

Solar energy is highly accessible. You can use solar to power a home in almost any location. Solar is currently being used to generate electricity for running small appliances like roadside signs and even calculators.

In the United States, the Solar Energy Potential Map indicates that all locations offer adequate sunlight to generate not less than 250 watts of electricity for every square foot of collector space daily. A lot of places are capable of generating way more than that.

On the other hand, Hydroelectric power production is confined to areas with access to an adequate supply of running water. Water is used to run turbines and other forms of equipment. As a result, there are a lot of areas that are considered exclusion areas. In these areas, federal or other statutes block hydroelectric power generation.

Environmental Impact

The use of solar energy poses a lower risk to the environment. A lot of the environmental impact of solar energy results from the manufacture and distribution of the collector panels themselves. On the other hand, hydroelectric power generation poses a significant impact on the environment.

To produce hydroelectric power, dams have to be created in rivers. This harms local habitats and ecosystems and may cause flooding. Due to the damming, there is also a change in flow patterns which causes problems with fish migration.

Mobility and Flexibility

Unlike solar, hydroelectric power cannot be used to power small, portable devices. Solar energy can be used as a primary power source for very small devices like watches, flashlights, and calculators. This is because the sun is more easily accessible for mobile devices than hydroelectric power.

There are small versions of photovoltaic panels that can be installed on these small devices. That is not possible with turbines and water, making hydroelectric energy an ill match for solar.


Currently, solar is of great significance. The world is trying to switch from the traditional energy source to newer and greener energy sources. Also, solar is everlasting, and the sun is a colossal source of power. This energy can be drawn using collector cells, which can be installed in people’s homes. Every single piece of equipment needed for solar generation can fit into any home, no matter how small. That is certainly a huge plus and a win on the side of solar energy.

Given that the price of solar panels is dropping, and people are fast adopting grid-connected solar PV modules, it sure seems like solar is winning the battle. It is fast turning into a good and affordable technological innovation capable of effectively transforming sustainable energy from the sun into electricity that every home can use. In this epic battle, hydroelectric power might have some point, but solar seems to be the clear winner. Give it a few years, and there might not even be a reason to compare.




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