Hydropower is a form of renewable energy that is becoming ever more popular within the energy industry. Effectively it uses the water stored in dams as well as the water flowing in large rivers to produce electricity through hydropower plants.
Hydropower is becoming increasingly crucial for the future generations, so it is important we know exactly what it is and how it is used. Read on as we answer your question: What is hydropower and how will it affect the future?
What is hydropower?
Like many other forms of renewable energy, hydropower uses turbines to help it generate electricity. The heavy flow of water turns the blades. The rotating blades then spin at speed allowing the generator to convert the mechanical energy into electrical energy. The amount of energy production does depend on the power of the water, the quantity of flowing water and from what height it falls from.
A hydro plant is made up of three systems: one part is an electric plant which is where the electricity is produced. The second is the dam which can be opened or closed depending on the demand for the electricity. Finally the last is the reservoir where all the water is stored. The electricity produced in these plants does not have to be used within the local vicinity, it can also be transported long distances through electric lines to businesses and homes.
What types of hydropower is there?
Impoundment is the most common form of hydropower which uses a dam to store water in a reservoir. It is then released and flows through turbines; there are a few reasons as to why the water will be used, to either meet the high demand of electricity or to maintain a constant level within the reservoir.
A diversion does not always require the use of a dam, however, can still be used with one. The water is diverted through a small portion of the rivers natural course. Water generates electricity by changing the course of the river through pipes or a tunnel to power turbines; the water is then returned back into the river further down the stream.
Pumped storage works a bit like a battery; it stores the electricity generated through other power sources such as solar, wind and nuclear for later use. To store the energy during low demand, it pumps water up a hill to a reservoir which is higher elevated than the lower one. When there is a higher demand for electricity, it releases the water back to the lower reservoir, which turns the turbine to generate electricity.
Who uses the most hydropower?
According to Statista, the countries that produce the most hydropower are China, Canada, Brazil, the US and Russia. China produces the largest amount of hydropower from the Yangtze River, which is one of the longest rivers in Asia, it also has the largest hydro plants in the world.
At the moment in the UK, we only generate around 1.5% of hydroelectricity. However, it is being used more and more by those who live near water. To put it more into perspective, in the future homes that live by the river could be producing their own energy and not have to rely on the national grid.
How does hydropower help the future?
Hydropower is a fantastic renewable option which means it will never run out. For future generations, this means they can produce electricity freely and sustainably. Hydropower costs far less than any other form of electricity, for those that use hydropower, they will also notice a significant decrease in their energy bills.
Fuel is not burned which means there is less risk of pollution. However, the only downside about a hydropower plant is there is a lot of noise pollution. Water to produce power is also free, as it is a natural resource which means future generations will not run out. It also helps to reduce the number of greenhouse emissions you release into the atmosphere therefor contributing to the reduction of climate change. Another great benefit is that it is relatively low maintenance, which also helps with cost as it does not need regular maintenance.
Here in the UK, we have surges of energy consumption increased during the winter months, as the dark nights draw in people are keeping appliances and lights on longer. People are also looking to put their heating on more throughout the day which means energy demand is much higher. A great thing about hydropower is that many facilities can go from zero power to maximum output very quickly, so during colder months when demand is high, hydropower can meet these sudden changes. As it does not take hydropower plants long to send energy back into the grid, it also means it can provide essential back up power if needed, for example when a town or city has a blackout.
One thing many people tend to forget about is the effect energy can have on wildlife and natural habitats. As hydropower requires a dam, it helps fish thrive, and other wildlife can move freely. To help fish migrate from one dam to another, fish ladders are used, these are small pools which are built like steps to allow fish to migrate naturally.
Why use renewable energy?
Human activity is overloading the earth atmosphere with carbon dioxide, which is having a dramatic effect on the number of global warming emissions released into the world. These gasses produced by the energy we consume act as a blanket, trapping in the heat. The result of this in future generations is the harmful impact it can have on their living, from more frequent storms, droughts, extinction of important species and sea level rise.
If you are wanting to make your mark on the world and reduce your carbon footprint one of the best places to start is by looking at your energy bills. If electricity plans for homes are using a renewable energy you may want to look at switching providers. You can also look at tips on how to reduce energy consumption in the home such as reading our blog on: Top 5 house hold appliances that use energy.