Hydropower 101Posted on July 8, 2016 by Susan
For the past few weeks on this blog, we’ve been discussing renewable energy sources, such as advancements in solar power and innovations in wind energy. For this post, we’re exploring hydroelectricity and how this alternative power source – literally – goes with the flow.
Created from the energy of moving water, hydroelectricity is produced when water behind a dam flows through an intake, hitting and starting (or keeping in motion) the blades in a turbine. The turbine rotates a generator producing electricity that can be sent across far distances to power homes and businesses. Although it sounds like quite a lot of energy is utilized in the creation of electricity via melting snow and rainstorms, hydropower is actually one of the cheapest form of electricity. Hydro energy provides nearly one-fifth of the world’s power and it is especially prevalent in China, Canada, Brazil, Russia and the U.S. One reason hydropower is so popular is that most countries have access to powerful rivers and the technology, in fact, is most affordable. Once the machinery and infrastructure is in place, all that’s left to add is free, flowing water.
Hydropower isn’t anything new. The ancient Greeks used water wheels to power mills and grind wheat into flour. Much later, in the late 19th century, this same technology was used to create electricity, and in 1879, the first hydroelectric power plant was built at Niagara Falls.
Today, hydropower is also one of the greener sources of electricity and energy. As carbon and fossil fuels aren’t used in plant operations, hydropower has a smaller environmental impact than many other energy sources. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the perfect, clean energy option. To build dams, often people and animal habitats are displaced, trees must be cleared away and large rocks and land formations need to be extracted – not exactly zero impact on the environment.
Even with its negative implications, hydropower’s green features make it an energy source worth continued development and investment. As we move forward in our quest for a cleaner, more sustainable planet, hydropower will, no doubt, continue to clean up its act.
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