Hydropower is also known as water power or water energy. Hydropower is power derived from the energy of falling or fast-running water; the power of water which creates electricity in hydropower plants. The falling water rotates blades of a turbine, which then spins a generator that converts the mechanical energy of the spinning turbine into electrical energy. It is a form of renewable energy. In the late 19th century, hydropower became a source for generating electricity and hydroelectricity is a source of low carbon in compare to all.
Hydroelectricity is the application of hydropower to generate electricity. In 1878, Cragside in Northumberland was the first house powered by hydroelectricity and first commercial hydroelectric power plant was built at Niagara Falls in 1879. In 1881, street lamps in the city of Niagara Falls were powered by hydropower. The first hydroelectric plant whose power went to multiple customers began operation on September 30, 1882, on the Fox River near Appleton, Wisconsin. Major improvements in hydroelectric power generation were made by Lester Allan Pelton (1829–1908), an inventor who is sometimes called the “Father of Hydroelectric Energy.”
How Hydropower Works?
Before we understand how hydropower works, let’s understand some terms.
- Kinetic Energy: The energy contained in any fluid mass, such as water, that is in motion.
- Hydropower: Any form of power derived from water.
- Mechanical Energy: The energy output of tools or machinery.
- Stored Energy: The energy contained in water that is stored in a tank or held back behind a dam in a reservoir.
- Flow: The volume of water in a river or stream.
- Thermal Energy: Any form of energy in the form of heat; used in reference to heat in the oceans’ waters.
Hydropower plants capture the energy of falling water to generate electricity. The plant has three parts.
- A power plant where the electricity is produced
- A dam that can be opened or closed to control water flow
- A reservoir where water is stored
The dam water flows through an intake and pushes against blades in a turbine. The turbine converts the kinetic energy of falling water into mechanical energy. The turbine spins a generator to produce electricity. Then a generator converts the mechanical energy from the turbine into electrical energy.
The amount of electricity that can be generated depends on how far the water drops and how much water moves through the system. The electricity can be transported through long-distance electric lines to homes, factories, and businesses. Other types of hydropower plants make use of the flow through a waterway without a dam.
How much power can water create?
This completely depends on some of the factors and these factors are:
- The size of the generator
- The amount of potential power available at the site
- How Far the Water Falls
- Amount of Water Falling
Advantages of Hydropower:
- Hydropower is fueled by water, so it’s a clean fuel source
- Water to run the power plant is provided free by nature
- Hydropower plays a major role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide)
- Relatively low operations and maintenance costs
- The technology is reliable and proven over time
- It’s renewable – rainfall renews the water in the reservoir, so the fuel is almost always there
- It does not contribute to global warming
- No contribution in acid rain
- Hydropower leaves behind no waste
Disadvantages of Hydropower:
- The initial cost to develop and build a project can be very high
- Hydrology dependent (precipitation)
- In some cases, inundation of land and wildlife habitat
- In some cases, loss or modification of fish habitat
- Fish entrainment or passage restriction
- In some cases, changes in reservoir and stream water quality
- In some cases, displacement of local populations
Hydropower and the world:
China, Brazil, Canada, the United States and Russia are the five largest producers of hydropower around The World. The world’s largest hydroelectric plant in terms of installed capacity is Three Gorges (Sanxia) on China’s Yangtze River, which is 1.4 miles (2.3 kilometers) wide and 607 feet (185 meters) high.
From 1975 to 1991 the Itaipu Dam was built across the Parana River as a joint project by Brazil and Paraguay. The plant has eighteen generating units. The amount of iron and steel used in its construction could have built 380 Eiffel Towers (the famous landmark in Paris). The volume of concrete used to construct it is equal to fifteen times the volume used to construct the tunnel under the English Channel that connects France and England. To build the dam, workers had to re-channel the seventh largest river in the world and remove 50 million tons of earth and rock.
The Washington city gets about two-thirds of its electricity from Grand Coulee Dam Hydropower plant on the Columbia River. It is also known as the biggest hydropower plant in the United States.
Here are some facts about Hydropower:
- Worldwide, about 20% of all electricity is generated by hydropower.
- Canada is the largest producer of hydropower in the world. The United States is the second.
- Norway produces more than 99% of its electricity with hydropower. New Zealand uses hydropower for 75% of its electricity.
- In the U.S., hydropower produces enough electricity to serve the needs of 28 million residential customers.
- Hydropower prevents the burning of 22 billion gallons of oil or 120 million tons of coal each year