Hydro power is one of those few alternative sources of energy that has actually declined in use over the years. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, hydro power seemed to be a real player in terms of the production of power, but then declined in the decades following. Today, though, that is starting to turn around as more countries and more cities are turning to hydro power as a way to produce electricity.
What Is Hydro Power
Hydro is a prefix that refers to water. So in hydro power, water is used to produce power and that power us used to produce electricity. In most cases, the technology is not totally unlike that which is used to harness wind energy to produce electricity. The big difference, obviously, is that instead of turning turbines with wind, water is used to do the work. The turbines turn gears, which in turn crank a generator and produce electricity.
There are some examples that can be looked to as how hydropower can be used. One needs to look no further than the Las Vegas area in Nevada where the Hoover Dam is used to produce power. Additionally, there is the Nasser Dam, which is located in Egypt and the Three Gorges Dam in China.
Many environmentalists and those supporting alternative methods of energy production wonder why hydro power is not more widely used, especially in the United States. For instance, countries like New Zealand and Norway get a great deal of their energy from hydro power sources. It is clean source of energy that is renewable and burns no fuel at all. Much like with wind power, as long as the water is moving, there is power being produced.
Hydro Power Pros and Cons
There are many other pros to the use of water for power and electricity. For one, hydropower is incredibly efficient. In fact, the conversion rate of power when using water is generally more than 80% with some plants getting better than 90% for their conversion rate. Additionally, the plant can go on for many years. Look at any major dam and you can see that they last a long time, which makes the overall production efficient. It is much more efficient than the use of oil or coal to produce electricity.
As with any technology or plan, there are some drawbacks. For one, the up front cost of a hydro power plant is pretty high. To build a dam large enough to produce enough energy for a city or town, hundreds of millions of dollars can be needed. If you look at a project the size of the Three Gorges Dam in China, you can be talking about costs in the billions at the front in. This makes hydropower hard to start in smaller countries or in areas where such funds are not available. The other big drawback to hydro power is the impact of building dams. When you dam a river to produce power, you can have a big impact on the area around it. Damming the water up will often cause large chunks of land to be flooded which can put people out of their homes.
Though hydropower is one of the most efficient, cleanest, and most cost effective forms of energy production out there, it is still not used as widely as many would like. Much of the reason for that comes from the fact that there are a couple of obstacles that must be overcome each time a hydro power plant is created. For one, there is the massive up front costs of producing the facility. Secondly, there is environmental and human impact that must be measured and controlled. However, no matter which way you look at it, the harnessing of water’s power to produce electricity is one of the best methods left for conserving what the earth has.