A resource of energy

Most of the mountain regions in areas with a humid and temperate climate, including Italy, have a high production of hydroelectric power. This is an important item in the national energy accounts.
The water of the mountain torrents flows down great drops, which determine an optimum energetic potential, but generally the outputs of the torrents are too variable to be exploited continually. Glacier melt waters guarantee a supply of large quantities of water in the summer season, when the other courses of water have run dry. It is sufficient to compare, with equal precipitation, the summer output of water courses in the Alps and in Central and Southern Italy, to realize the importance of the existence of glacier bodies in the surface water regimen.
For this reason many hydroelectric plants in the mountain areas are fed by ice melt waters,  and in very many cases water is tapped directly from the torrents that form from the glaciers. Countries like Switzerland, Austria, Italy and New Zealand were among the first to exploit the productive potentiality of ice waters. At the start of the Seventies, 64% of the energy requirement in Switzerland was covered by the production of the hydroelectric power plants, that were mostly fed directly or indirectly by water melting from the glaciers. In the Italian Alps, there are a number of examples in the mountain regions in the north, in the regions of Piedmont, Valle d’Aosta, Trentino-Alto Adige and Lombardy, where the presence of glaciers enables an intensive use of water as a source of energy.
One of the most imposing examples of exploitation of the water resources of the Alpine glaciers is the gravity dam in Dixence in Val des Dix in Switzerland. With its 285 m wall, it is the highest in the Alpine range and one of the highest in the world, supporting a reservoir with a capacity of 400 million  m3. With a network of over 100 km of underground galleries and channel shunts , it collects the waters of the Cheilon Glacier and the glaciers coming from Mount Rosa and the Matterhorn, with plants that cover an overall surface area of 357 km2,  half of which are covered by glaciers  (data: Smiraglia, 1992).

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