Hydropower is the biggest contributor to the green energy family supplying up to 10% of America’s energy.
While that may not sound like a lot, green energy contributed 13% total, making hydroelectric the vast majority of that.
While that is significant for green energy, it is important to keep pushing forward in technology and implementation. Water is a vast renewable energy resource that is beneath its potential as of right now.
What is hydropower?
Put simply, hydropower is the movement of water creating electricity.
Depending on the resource, water, usually from a dam, moves through turbines to create the power for nearby towns.
How does hydropower work?
Energy is created when the water moves the rotors on a turbine which is attached to an electromagnetic generator. And the generator produces electricity as the turbine spins.
The water is usually supplied through a dam but certain hydropower plants use natural flowing water to create electricity.
How are hydropower plants developed?
There are three basic types of hydropower plants:
- Impoundment facilities: This common technology method utilizes a dam and turbines which turn when the water passes through the dam, which creates electricity.
- Pumped storage facilities: Very similar to the impoundment facility, but the pumped storage has another reservoir below the dam. This reservoir can be pumped into the upper-reservoir and store energy for later use.
- Run-of-river facilities: This facility functions less consistently than the other two because it relies more on natural flowing water than the other two. It uses part of a river’s water to go through turbines and will sometimes not even have the use of a dam or reservoir.
The area the dam is built in must be cleared before it can start. It’s effect on wildlife must be weighed and future consideration of environmental impact must be considered.
There are a lot of politics to go through to build a dam and the initial costs can be steep. However, the savings and clean energy it produces far outweigh the higher costs of building.
What do we use hydropower for?
Historically water power was used for milling grains and such. Today it is used to create electricity with a renewable source that doesn’t emit greenhouse gases.
Dams store a lot of water and are, therefore, an excellent source of hydropower.
What are the potential problems?
Many corporations or people who stand to lose profit from the success of green energy are in heavy opposition of hydropower, which limits the growth and technological development of hydropower.
There are some environmental concerns in building dams. However, with close inspection and respect to wildlife it is possible to build dams without threatening certain species.
Dams have been built both naturally and artificially for thousands of years (naturally even longer).
Building dams with careful research and planning shouldn’t ever have negative impacts on wildlife or on the earth. In fact, the direct opposite should occur with its reduction in greenhouse emissions.
Additionally, dams can help with flood control and are a reliable source of water as well as a community source of leisure. They can also help bring in revenue to the state and country from the small fees to use the facilities for leisure.
Hydropower plants are unaffected by increases in fuel costs and they reduce pollution. Hydropower is a renewable, clean, and cost effective source of energy. It more than pays for the planning and costs throughout its lifetime.