Alternative Energy Sources >> Hydroelectric Energy 

 

Hydroelectric Energy

Hydroelectric Energy


 

 

Water is one of earth痴 richest resources. It not only helps in the growth of humans, plants and animals but it also helps generate electricity. One can say then that there is indeed power in water. 

 


Hydroelectric energy refers to an alternative energy resulting from the hydrologic cycle of water. It is the force behind the generation of power through the use of falling water痴 gravitational force. The flow or fall of water determines the amount of available energy. It is important to understand that a big river with fast flowing water can provide a huge amount of energy in the same way that water that falls rapidly from a high position such as the water falls carries a great amount of energy. 

Worldwide, hydropower is one of the commonly used forms of renewable energy and one of the oldest energy sources. Its major application is in generating electricity and its main benefit is that it produces no direct waste. 

Hydroelectric Energy Uses



This form of energy mainly comes from dammed water that drives a water turbine and generator. Energy produced, however, is dependent on the volume of water as well as on the difference in height between the source and the outflow of water. 

Power for high peak demands is usually provided by pumped storage hydroelectricity. Moving water between reservoirs at different elevations is instrumental in producing power. When electricity needs are low, water is pumped into the higher reservoir and when demand rises again, water is released back into the lower reservoir via the turbine. 

Apart from supplying power to public electricity networks, hydroelectric projects are also utilized in certain industrial enterprises. For instance, they provide electricity to aluminum electrolytic plants such as those found in the Scottish Highlands, in the U.S. (Bellingham, Washington), Suriname, Iceland and New Zealand. 

Hydroelectric power plants can either be large scale or small scale. The small hydro plants that supply up to 10 megawatts of electricity are ideal for irrigation and flood control. They are common in China which has more than half of the world痴 small hydro capacity. 

Pros and cons of Hydroelectricity 

With hydroelectricity, use of fuel is totally eliminated. This being so, the operating cost of hydroelectric plants is not affected by the rising cost of fossil fuels

A big advantage of hydropower is the absence of waste products when used in electricity generation. And since it does not produce harmful elements, it does not cause pollution in water and in the air. 

This type of power plant is also seen to be more durable compared to one that uses fuel. In fact, some hydroelectric plants have been in existence for 50 to 100 years already. 

Cost of labor is also low for this power plant because it is normally automated with a need for only a few people on site during operation. Construction may entail low cost as well thereby offsetting the costs of operating a dam that serves a variety of purposes. 

On the other side of the coin, hydroelectric projects have a tendency to affect the surrounding ecosystems. Dams, for example, have been found to reduce fish population. In addition, hydropower can change the downstream river environment. 
Another concern is the emission of methane and carbon dioxide in power plant reservoirs located in tropical areas. 
 


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