Author(s)

Johanna Engstrom 

Published

2018

Citation

Engstrom, J. 2018. Hydropower in the Southeast: Balancing lakeview and production optimization. Southeastern Geographer 58(4). https://muse.jhu.edu/article/712354

Publication URL

Link

Abstract

Hydropower is the most important source of renewable electricity in the southeastern United States. However, hydropower reservoirs may have conflicting management objectives of generating electricity and maintaining reservoir levels within a certain range due to lakeside homes and recreational interests. The situation is exacerbated as the region is repeatedly struck by droughts that lower the reservoir levels, decrease hydropower potential and give rise to conflicts over the limited water resource. This study takes a historical perspective and investigates how hydropower production patterns have changed over time, considering both natural drivers and human dimensions. Hydropower production is strongly tied to the natural variability of large-scale atmospheric drivers (teleconnections) as they affect the water availability in the whole river system and also the market demand. To balance the water resource between different interests is a complex task, and the conflicting interests vary by basin, sometimes over a relatively small geographic area. Here road networks adjacent to the hydropower reservoirs are used as an indicator of human dimensions of development and recreational activities. Through a network analysis of the historical development of road networks surrounding the reservoir, the local and regional conflicting interests are identified and the influence on renewable electricity production quantified.