The world has been tapping into one of nature’s engines by taking advantage of the water cycle and gravity to create a useful form of energy. Humans have been exploring this means for thousands of years now. This is why we are all using the power that is been harnessed from the power of moving water. It is like the largest source of emission-free and renewable electricity and it is called hydroelectricity. In this post, hydroelectricity will be elaborated upon and all its details explore to give users all the information they need to know.
Also Read: A Review of Water Turbine Generators
What is Hydroelectricity?
Hydroelectricity can best be described as the electricity produced by hydropower. Simply put the hydroelectricity is the conversion of energy from flowing water into electricity. So at present, modern hydro plants create electricity using generators and turbines when mechanical energy is created when moving water spins rotors on a turbine.
How Does Hydroelectricity Works
Hydroelectricity works via hydropower plants capturing the energy of falling water to create electricity. First, a turbine transforms the kinetic energy of the falling water into mechanical energy, from there the hydropower plant or generator converts the mechanical energy released from the turbine into electricity or electrical current.
Also Read: All You Should Know About Gas Turbine Power
Hydroelectricity Advantages and Disadvantages
The following are the pros and cons of using the hydroelectricity:
Advantages of Hydroelectricity
- Clean energy source: Energy produced from the hydroelectric plant isn’t contaminating unlike other sources of power supply.
- It is cost competition energy source, it is lower operating and maintenance costs
- Hydroelectricity energy is renewable. It uses earth’s water to produce electricity and as such is renewable.
- Hydroelectricity helps in the development of remote communities by providing electricity which will help uplift its economy.
- It’s a great source of recreational opportunities, the dam can be used as recreational activities like swimming, fishing boating etc. and can be a hot spot for tourist attractions.
Disadvantages of Hydroelectricity
- Environmental damage, this leads to the interruptions of natural water flow like the migration of sea creatures because of this activity.
- Hydroelectricity needs a high upfront capital cost. Power plants are expensive to build, it might need less maintenance after building but building the power plants is quite high.
- Hydroelectricity brings conflict.
- It may lead to droughts. The accessibility of water might be impacted by dry spells which bring about low electricity.
- There’s always the risk of floods in lower elevations
- With Hydroelectricity, there’s methane emission and carbon dioxide.
Types of Hydroelectric Power Plant
Hydropower plants just like other generators comes in a range of size from small systems for a village or home to a large projects that can produce electricity for utilities. The three outstanding types are the impoundment, Diversion and pumped storage
Diversion Hydroelectric Power Plant
This is also known as a run of river, this facility channels a portion of a river via a penstock or canal. This might need the use of a dam.
Impoundment Hydroelectric Power Plant
This is the popular of all the types of hydroelectric power plants; this is a large hydro system that uses the dam to store river water in a reservoir. The water from the reservoir flows via a turbine spinning it which will then activate a generator to create electricity. The water release is sometimes to meet changing electricity needs or to have a constant reservoir level.
Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Power Plant
This is another type of hydroelectric power plant. This one works like a battery. It stores the electricity created by other sources like nuclear, solar, and wind for later use. This facility stores energy by pumping water uphill to storage at a higher elevation from a second reservoir at a lower elevation.
Parts of Hydroelectric Power Plant
The basic parts of the hydroelectric plants are the following:
Turbine: This part is the spinning part, force of falling water pushes against its blades causing it to spin with the spinning, it will converts the kinetic energy of falling water into mechanical energy.
Dam: It helps in raising the water level of the river to create falling water. It controls the flow of water, so the reservoir formed in effect can store energy.
Transmission Lines: This is the line that conducts or connects electricity from the hydropower plant to different businesses and home
Generator: This is connected to the turbine by shafts and the gears so that when the turbine spins it will make the generator spins as well. Which will then converts the mechanical energy release from the turbine into electric energy. The fact is generators used as hydropower plants work like other generators in other types of power plant too.
Features of Hydroelectric Power Plant
The features or characteristics of hydroelectric power plant include the following:
- It helps in converting energy from flowing water into electricity
- The hydropower plant is categorized into 3 sizes: large(30MW), Small ( 100kw -30MW), OR micro (<100kw)
- Hydroelectric power plants are always located in dams
- Hydroelectric power plants are constructed to take advantage of the rise and fall of tides
- The hydroelectric power plant is preferred energy in areas that have got heavy rainfall, which is hilly and also mountainous because there are close to the main load centers.
- It comes from associated dams that can interrupt the migration of spawning fish like the salmons.
Hydroelectric Power Facts
There are facts that are associated with hydroelectric power. They include the following:
- Hydroelectric power is the largest contributor to all renewable energy sources and it accounts for about 6.7% of worldwide electricity production.
- Hydroelectric power is a low-cost source of power
- It is flexible and more reliable source of electricity, unlike other renewable options.
Why Hydroelectric Power is Bad?
In as much as hydroelectric power is great to a large extent but it has its bad side too. The outstanding point why hydroelectric power is bad is the damage to environment, the impact of the damming of rivers on the native plants and animals in the waterways is negative. Water temperature changes with Hydroelectric power activities make survival for river life difficult.
How Efficient is Hydroelectric Power
Truthfully, hydroelectric power is the most efficient way to generate electricity. It is a fact that modern hydro turbines now can convert as high as 90% available energy into electricity. Even the best fossil fuel plants can only be about 50% efficient.
How Many Kilowatts Does Hydropower Produce?
As at last, yearly the total US conventional hydroelectricity generation capacity was 80 million kilowatts about 79.746 megawatts
Where is the Biggest Hydropower Plant?
The biggest hydropower plant in the world is in Yichang, Hubei province, China. It is a 22.5GW three Gorges hydroelectric power plant. This is a conventional impoundment hydropower facility exploiting the water resource of the Yangtze River.
Who Invented the Hydropower?
Hydropower came to be in the 19th century and it was when American engineer James Francis built modern water turbines in 1882. Its operation began in the world first in the United States along the Fox River in Appleton Wisconsin.
What can Hydropower Power
Hydropower power just like other sources of power supply can be used to power different things. It includes the following:
- Small scale hydropower can be used to power appliances on a domestic scale and can be used to heat the home.
- Power recreational centers
- Can be set up to power businesses and its devices
- Can power offices, its equipment, and devices
- It can power construction sites for all tools and equipment in use
- Can power schools, banks, churches, hospitals, and bars
How Can We Increase the Efficiency of Hydroelectric Power?
Just like every other asset that always needs to be improved to maintain its efficiency for higher performance. The same is applicable to hydroelectric power. It needs to be enhanced periodically for an excellent performance. The following are the three ways of increasing the efficiency of hydroelectric power:
- Operational improvements
- New technologies
- Electricity market opportunities
Operational Improvements: This is about improving the existing plants to increase efficiency, if it needs the plants adjusting to meet the times, it will be a great way for efficiency and making the plants meet the demands of the time.
New Technologies: This is about making technological and mechanical changes to the hydropower plants so as to add value to it and increase efficiency. It means altering the technology to serve lower loads but higher peaks. For example, upgrading plants will help it meet the demands for the load capacity it needs to meet to create room for efficiency.
Electricity Market Opportunities: This means that changes in the management of electricity markets can create opportunities for hydroelectric power to be efficient.
The hydroelectricity comes with both the good and the bad, but the good sides still outweigh the bad side of it. With the issue of negative environmental impacts, the way a project is operated can make a big difference, managing flow releases from the dams to ensure there’s enough water in the river to support river life will be the best way to tackle it. All the same, hydroelectricity is making a great impact on all continents of the world.