Advantages of Hydroelectric Energy

Power generated by flowing water is referred to as “hydroelectric energy.”

This principle has been used by man, throughout history.  It was utilized in ancient times, to mill grains such as corn.

In 1878, the Cragside House in England was the first house to be lit by this process.  In 1882, hydroelectric energy was used to power two paper mills and a residential building.

Hydroelectric plants harness power, by putting up a dam to store water in a reservoir.  Water is then be released in a regular basis so that it flows into the pipe, which turns a turbine.  The turbine drives a generator, which produces electricity.

Storage plants use a two-way reservoir system.  They pump water up from the river, to be stored in a higher reservoir when not in use.  The water is released later on, to produce electricity when needed.  This is an inexpensive way of producing electricity.

The higher the dam, the greater the amount of hydroelectric energy that can be produced.  The reason for this is the fact that the gravitational potential energy of water is greater at a higher level.  When it flows downward into the turbines, it produces a high pressure, which translates into a greater amount of force.

This is why countries with mountainous regions, such as New Zealand and Switzerland, get enough power from their hydroelectric plants to supply half of their countries’ energy requirements.

The Hoover Dam in the Colorado River used to supply most of the electricity needed by Las Vegas.  But as years passed by, Las Vegas has grown, and the plant’s output became inadequate – to the point where the city had to find other sources for power.

We don’t see as many hydroelectric power plants around as we could, because it can be expensive to build them.  But one advantage they has over other sources, is that the water they need in order to operate, is free.  They also don’t produce any waste or pollution, which can be harmful to the environment.  Flowing water is a far more consistent and reliable source of energy than solar or wind power.  It can generally continue to produce electricity, nonstop.

Since this type of power plant requires no fossil fuels in order to run, it will not produce any harmful carbon dioxide emissions.  Some might argue that greenhouse gases are produced during construction.  But in the long run, this becomes negligible.  The emissions that would have been produced by conventional power plants, in order to produce the same amount of electricity in the long run, are far greater.

Reservoirs which are created for production of hydroelectric energy provide another source of income to their areas.  They become tourist attractions, and can even be used as facilities for water sports.  Dams in some areas act as flood control mechanisms as well.

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5 Responses to “Advantages of Hydroelectric Energy”

  1. Henderson Nevada November 4, 2009 at 6:56 pm #

    The reasons are legal. There are existing water rights that prevent the building of dams. Then you add in the impact of ecological changes and those legal battles and you quickly find that what may make a lot of common sense becomes very expensive to put into place. Water rights are a huge deal.
    .-= Henderson Nevada´s last blog ..Henderson NV Residental Telephone Service for Cheap! =-.

  2. Daniel Theisen May 6, 2010 at 9:37 am #

    Rolling Down the Rivers

    Perpetual motion doesn’t exist, yet our rivers have been flowing to our seas for the last 12,000 years. That flow will stop some day, but not in the foreseeable future. We know the potential power of our rivers. We captured it with simple wooden water wheels turning leather belts. We captured it as falling water driving high speed turbines to generate electrical power. We built giant dams to contain and focus the force of gravity to the turbines needed to the turn generators at higher and higher speeds. The beauty of that form of hydro power is, once it potential is captured, its there 24 / 7, on cloudy windless days or nights. The down side hydroelectric dams has been the disruption and destruction of our environment, interference with shipping and the too often catastrophic total failure. When we think of “Hydro-Electrical Power” we think big dams, with vast reservoirs drowning forever, sacred places of natural beauty, or places of geological or historical significance. We think the turn of the last century, of fast falling water driving humongous turbine generators. That is how it’s been done from its conception until the failure of Boulder Dam in the 60’s. An incident that ended hydroelectric power in the U. S., just as the 3 mile island incident ended nuclear power in the 70’s. Hydroelectric power is ignored and unmentioned on any list of sources of alternate energy. Today we are re-examining the use of “clean coal technology” and the safety of nuclear generators, while tearing down existing dams that interfere with fish reproduction. It’s time to re-examine hydroelectric power as a 24/7 better source of alternate power. It’s time for a major upgrade of our hydroelectric systems, reflecting what we have learned since building on a damned dam system based on technology a hundred years old.

    With the invention of the slow rolling wind generators, we began harnessing energy with a smaller footprint with a huge sky print that produced at best power for 12/7. That same weather proof system works just as well underwater, in the currents of our flowing rivers, 24/7. That system has proven its potential in the East River in New York, along the Mississippi and many other rivers.

    The cost of the complete package underwater; sunken generators, tall propellers, anchors and cables, will be paid in divers life’s paid by those installing and servicing them. Divers will be lost; installing, maintaining, repairing or replacing, underwater equipment, in river currents, surprisingly dangerous. The current and tidal driven hydro generators prove the feasibility to capture the power of our waters 24/7 without harming the environment.

    Problems, which we can overcome, by simplifying the basic design so that permit safe without harming the landscape or environment. access and save the cost that will be spent in lives.

    We could design a system that generates power from our flowing rivers by capturing its flow along the rivers bed without risking divers or interfering with marine traffic. We could position a floating concrete base, mounted with a roller and a simple hydraulic pump, sink it into the beds of our river and let it roll. The hydraulic pump that captures the energy at the bottom of the river would pump it to the surface, where it would be accumulated to drive a generator. The simplified machinery underwater would require less servicing and could be raised to the surface, on those rare times service is needed.
    The size of the rollers, hydraulic pumps, accumulators are scaleable to the river, determining the height and circumference of the roller to the size of hydraulic pump. The width of the river determines the rollers length. All hydraulic lines would be filled with earth friendly oil, in case of leakage. On the Detroit and other rivers the base and roller assembly mounted above the river bed, would create areas of calmer water in the wake of the roller assembly, creating a breeding ground for sturgeon and other species of fish.

    On shore and connected to the roller assembly would be;
    A Hydraulic Accumulator
    Air compressor and vacuum pump
    Electrical controls
    High and low pressure water pumps
    Hydraulic Drive
    Generator
    The accumulator would increase the pressure of the hydraulic oil increasing the speed of the hydraulic drive. The air compressor and vacuum pump would move air in and out of the base and roller. Control circuits would monitor roller speed, underwater cameras, and air/water/oil solenoid valves. A low pressure high volume water pump would provide or remove filtered water from the interior of the base and roller. A high pressure water pump could supply jets mounted at bottom of the base to remove soft sediments beneath the base during installation. The jets would level out the high spots on the river bottom or be used to sink the base below the sediment in shallower rivers where clearance is a problem. Jets could be used to allow periodic cleaning of sediment from the roller trough. The hydraulic drive would spin the generator. All air, water, oil lines and electrical cables would be sheathed together in a flexible conduit connecting the two installations above and below the water. The concrete base would run beneath the entire length of the roller. The front of the base would be ramped up to protect the roller assembly from river debris and would increase the velocity of the current as it meets the vanes of the roller. The interior baffles would add to the weight of the roller in motion after being filled with water. The added water weight in motion would increase the torque driving the hydraulic pump. I don’t have the tools, skill or hands needed for proper drawings, so here’s the best I have for now.

  3. Antonio @ Air Compressor Reviews August 19, 2010 at 6:11 pm #

    I think its all about the political game. Water was always and should always be free for everyone. But some how, around half the century ago people had this idea of selling water, so the many rights had just been brought to practice.

  4. Bob@hydroelectricity advantages November 27, 2010 at 9:07 am #

    You mention it being expensive to build dams, but I think the cost is actually pretty good. Repairs and maintenance are basically non-existent, and it takes very few people to run a dam in comparison to, say a wind farm.

  5. Katherine@product reviews February 9, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    Thanks for a useful post. Hope everything is as good as what you say, no more explosions, no more deaths in those plants.

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