Is electricity absolutely necessary? No, but with a technological society, clean water, reliable light, and heat require power. And if they want to travel anywhere without taking weeks, they need powered vehicles. So, electricity is needed.
There are several options for generating electricity. Considering that the colonists likely want to avoid using polluting fossil fuels, they’re out. And on a world like Ariadne, there’s no guarantee that there is an adequate supply, as the world is only 3 billion years old. Renewable sources are needed.
Settlements near rivers can use the power of the water. Large dams aren’t necessary, as the settlements are small. A much simpler system could be utilised that would use the movement of the water to turn turbines containing magnets. It’s clean, safe, and has low impact on the environment if small enough. Larger systems can disrupt the local environment and harm aquatic animals, however.
Wind turbines can be used to generate electricity. Small ones can power small devices, but large ones would be required for an entire town. They can be rather unsightly, though. Not only that, they could injure flying animals, and may be noisy. They’re also unreliable when there’s very low wind.
Great for areas with abundant sunshine. Solar panels can be placed on the roofs of buildings to power those buildings, but also a larger solar power plant could be constructed to power an entire town. Low impact for the environment, as it doesn’t harm anything. However, colonists must find the materials to make additional solar panels.
This is an excellent source of power, but only viable in areas that have hot springs or volcanoes. Other areas can’t use it. It is low impact, and should be used in those areas.
In the time of the Ariadne colony, fusion was used widely on Mars. Fusion is low impact, non-polluting, and does not produce radioactive waste. It’s an amazing source of power that uses an extremely abundant fuel, hydrogen. The trick is storing it and extracting it, especially if deuterium or tritium is used. Unlike nuclear fission, there are no runaway reactions resulting in meltdown, no uranium or plutonium.
So, what’s the best option? In the early days of the colony, solar is a good choice, though a simple hydroelectric generator is a good option near rivers. If there are fusion generators included in the colony’s manifest, these can be set up in the primary settlements. And of course, in the seismically and volcanically active areas, geothermal is a great choice.
What would you choose for a source of electricity in a colony?