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Understanding hydroelectric power

Just like other methods of power generation, hydroelectric power also produces electricity from generators driven by turbines. These turbines use the potential energy of falling or fast-flowing water, that is the hydro energy and convert it into mechanical energy. It is a form of renewable energy that is widely used in the early 21st century. In 2019, hydroelectric power accounted for more than 18 percent of the world’s total power generation capacity.

Today you’ll get to know the definition, applications, diagram, types, working, advantages, and disadvantages of hydroelectric power. You’ll also know how hydroelectric power works.

hydropower plant

 

What is hydroelectric power?

Hydroelectric power is also known as hydropower, it is the energy collected from flowing water that’s converted into electricity or used to power machinery. The electricity produced is from generators driven by turbines. In the working of the system, the potential energy of falling or fast-flowing water is converted into mechanical energy.

In the early 21st century, hydropower is highly utilized in form of renewable energy, and it accounted for more than 18 percent of the world’s total power generation capacity in 2019. The hydropower relies on water cycle which occur in three steps which include, the solar energy that heats water on the surface of river, lakes, and oceans. This causes the water to evaporate. Secondly, water vapor condenses into clouds and falls as precipitation, rain, and snow or dew. Lastly, the precipitation collected in streams and rivers empties into oceans and lakes where it evaporates and begins the cycle again.

Applications of hydroelectric power

The applications of hydroelectric power today are so broad as electricity is one of our basic needs today. Hydropower has been around for centuries, used to power millwheels and drive early industrial machinery. It is also used thousands of years ago to turn paddle wheels on rivers and to grind grain. Today, hydropower is used to generates electricity. In fact, United States used hydropower to generates more electricity than any other renewable energy. below are the common uses of hydropower in most advanced countries:

  • For a generation of clean electricity, which is its primary use.
  • For business benefits, in such that hydro sites can be good places to locate a major production facility due to the cheap and excess energy they produce.
  • Another good use of hydropower is to offer recreational facilities to the public such as swimming, fishing, and boating.
  • Hydropower energy s employed in flood risk management.
  • The system is used to enable irrigation for agriculture.

Diagram of hydropower energy:

diagram of hydropower plant

Types of hydroelectric power

There are three types of hydroelectric power, having different designs. Some hydropower plants use dams while some don’t. below are the various types of hydropower plants:

Impoundment:

These types of hydropower plants are common, it is an impoundment facility, typically with a large hydropower system. It uses a dam to store river water in a reservoir which flows through a turbine just to spin it. The turbine shaft rotates a generator to produce electricity. The water is sometimes released to meet the electricity needs or to maintain a constant reservoir level.

Diversion:

A diversion of hydroelectric power plants is sometimes called run-of-river. Its facility channels a portion of a river through a canal or penstock. It may or may not use a dam. Finally,

Pumped storage:

These types of hydroelectric power plants work like a battery, storing the electricity generated just like in other renewable energy sources like wind and solar. The energy is stored as the water is pumped uphill to a reservoir at a higher elevation from a second reservoir to a lower elevation. When electricity demand is low, water is pumped from a lower reservoir to an upper reservoir which stored the energy. in high electrical demand, the water is released back to the lower reservoir which turns the turbine that generates electricity.

Hydroelectric power plants are available in various sizes which include:

Large hydropower – facilities that have a capacity of more than 30 megawatts (MW).

Small hydropower – projects that generate 10 MW or less of power. Lastly,

Micro hydropower – a capacity of up to 100 kilowatts.  A small or micro-hydroelectric power system can produce enough electricity for a home, farm, ranch, or village.

Working of hydroelectric power

In the working of hydroelectric power, water is received or stored at a higher elevation and projected downward through large pipes or tunnels (penstocks) to a lower elevation. The difference between these two elevations is called the head. A turbine is located at the end passage of the downpipes, which rotates as the falling water touches it. The turbine, in turn, drives generators, which convert the turbines’ mechanical energy into electricity. Transformers are then used to convert the alternating voltage suitable for the generator to a higher voltage which is suitable for long-distance transmission.

Watch the video below to learn more about the working of hydropower:

Advantages and disadvantages of hydroelectric power

Advantages:

Below are the benefits of hydropower in its various applications.

  • The energy source is clean.
  • It is environmentally friendly.
  • It does work with fuel.
  • Hydropower is a domestic source of energy.
  • The energy relies on the water cycle.
  • It is renewable.
  • Most hydropower facilities can quickly go from zero to maximum output.
  • Hydroelectric power provides essential backup power during major electricity outages.
  • Hydropower controls flood, irrigation, and supply water.

Disadvantages:

Despite the excellent advantages of hydroelectric power, some limitations still occur. Below are the disadvantages of hydropower.

  • The populations of fish can be affected if they cannot migrate upstream past impoundment dams to spawning grounds or if they cannot migrate downstream to the ocean.
  • Maintaining hydroelectric power plants can be tedious.
  • Water quality and flow can be impacted.
  • Hydropower plants can cause low dissolved oxygen levels in the water.
  • Hydropower plants can be impacted by drought.
  • Without water, hydropower plants can’t produce electricity.
  • New hydropower facilities impact the local environment.

Conclusion

Hydroelectric power is the energy collected from flowing water that’s converted into electricity or used to power machinery. The electricity produced is from generators driven by turbines. Hydropower has been around for centuries, used to power millwheels and drive early industrial machinery. The United States used hydropower to generates more electricity than any other renewable energy. That is all for this article, where the definition, applications, diagram, types, working, advantages and disadvantages of hydroelectric power.

I hope you get a lot from the reading, if so, kindly share with other students. Thanks for reading, see you next time!

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