Hydro Electric Power

The need for alternative energy sources are growing and hydro electric power is one of the many considerations for renewable energy sources. However, it is still unclear whether this source could provide the sufficient energy the world needs.

Hydro electricity is the oldest renewable energy source harnessed by the human race. It was used in water wheels, and the first water wheel was used more than 2,000 years ago. The technology of hydroelectricity has since been refined to become more efficient in the production of electricity.

There are many hydro electric power systems which all differ in their function and appearance. Moving water has inherent energy that can be used in several ways.

A common form of hydroelectric power involves placing a dam across a river, which creates a large reservoir where the water is released through a turbine to produce electricity. The system creates large quantities of power that will be able to support towns and cities, and smaller systems are used to power single residences and other buildings. The technology is great, but it is yet unknown whether these systems will have the ability to power the world.

How is Hydro Electric Power Generated

How hydro electric power is generated is a big factor in determining whether it a viable source of alternative power.

Generating the power begins with an annual water cycle that provides seasonal rain and run off from snow pack. The runoff collects in various bodies of water, including lakes, streams, and rivers, then flows to dams that are downstream from the bodies of water. This water funnels through the dams into a powerhouse and turns a wheel called a turbine. Turbines turn shafts that rotate a series of magnets past copper coils in a generator, which creates electricity. Once inside the generator, mechanical energy is converted into electrical energy using a magnetic field. Transmission lines carry the electricity to communities from the powerhouse.

A generator cannot store the energy it creates, so once the energy is converted into electricity it must be used immediately. If hydro electricity is going to power the world, then the electric demand must be anticipated to avoid wasting resources used to produce it.

Hydro Electric Power for Homes

Another important consideration is how many homes hydro electricity can provide power to, and how much power is needed to supply that energy to homes over a given area. The number of homes that can be provided with energy usually depends on the size of the generators. For example, generators in the United States may range in size from 350 kW to 805,000 kW.

Therefore, the maximum power that can be generated per day ranges from 8,400  kilowatt-hours (kWh) 19, 320,000 kWh. However, the average size of a generator is 76,000kW, which produces a maximum of approximately 1,842,000 kWh per day. The average unit would be able to provide power to 50,000 homes, since the average  household uses about 1,000 kWh of electricity each month. However, the production of electricity from hydro electricity units may vary each year from 25 percent to 45 percent of the maximum rated output due to water availability, such as floods or droughts and due to system requirements.

Hydro Electric Power Advantages and Disadvantages

Using hydro electric power as an alternative source of energy has many advantages, but it also has some downsides as well. Some advantages include a high level of reliability, proven technology, high efficiency, and low maintenance costs. The disadvantages include high initial costs of facilities, dependence on precipitation, which cannot be controlled, and changes in stream regimens.

There are many things to consider when creating an alternative energy source, but hydro-power is one option that is more possible than others. There are many factors to weigh up and the possibility of powering the world may seem far-fetched, but in the end hydro electric power is one of the most real alternative power sources.

Page Updated: May 6, 2016
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