How Hydro Power Is Used

Harnessing the power of water has been used for centuries for many
useful purposes.? Initially it was used for irrigation and operating
various machines, such as windmills and dock cranes. But these days it
has a more important use: as a renewable source of electricity.

So what is hydro power?

Well, basically it is the generation of electricity by using the natural force of water.

And how is hydro power generated ?

It is generated in 3 different ways: hydroelectric power, tidal power, and wave power.

Hydroelectric Power:

This is the most common form of hydro-power, making up the majority
of all renewable energy produced.? Electricity is produced in
hydroelectric dams where the force of falling water drives massive
turbines.

The advantage of this type of power is that not only does it produce
electricity, but the dam helps collect water for our use, so it’s a
power and water source in one.? Furthermore, the force of the water is
so strong that megawatts of electricity can be produced to help power
entire cities.

There is also a large amount of control over how fast the turbines
spin. If more power is needed, the controller simply opens the wicket
gates more, which allows more water through the turbines and spins them
faster.

The disadvantage is the devastating effect dams can have on plants,
animals and even humans.? When dams are built they flood large tracts
of land that were once occupied by various species and communities of
people.? Furthermore, the water-borne animals, such as fish can also be
affected.? An example would be salmon that are blocked from swimming
upstream to spawn by the newly erected dam.

Tidal Power:

The second most popular type of hydro power, tidal energy is
produced by currents caused from the natural ebb and flow of the tide.

This has been achieved by France and Russia since 1966 in areas with
a large tidal range, such as bays and estuaries.? One of the systems of
tidal power works by trapping water at high tide with a tidal barrage,
then releasing that water in one quick burst at low tide.? This gushing
water drives turbines to produce power.

Although the tides are very predictable and consistent, the problem
with this system is that the turbines only operate every 6 hours (once
every tide).

A second, more recent, tidal system looks very much like an
underwater wind turbine.? Large windmill like turbines are sunk in
shallow water, where they are slowly spun by shifting tidal water.

The advantage of this system is that it is an adaptation of an
already technologically advanced wind turbine – so all the refinement
has been done.? Furthermore, the dense water is far more efficient than
wind at spinning these turbines. Thus even slow-moving water is just as
effective as a strong wind.

The drawback is that the current systems can only be built in
shallow water, where tidal activity is greatest. This is very limiting
since many other economic activities – like oyster farming – occur in
the shallows. Furthermore, these structures can damage marine life on
the seafloor.

Wave Power:

This is the youngest of the three hydropower solutions.? The system
harnesses the power from ocean surface wave motion, where air displaced
by waves is driven through a generator than spins a turbine. The end
result is electricity. These generators can either be coupled to
floating devices outta sea, or fixed along the shore where seas are
rough.

Although this technology is relatively new, it has been estimated
that there is enough energy in ocean waves to produce up to 2000
Megawatts of power.

But, as with all hydro-power solutions, it has potential
environmental issues.? Conservationists are worried about the impact
these structures will have on the coastline’s fauna and flora. Also,
there is a possibility of water pollution if – for example – the
hydraulic fluids accidentally leaked into the sea. This can be expected
if the wave generators are constantly battered by rough seas.

Closing thought:

Man has come up with ingenious ways to harness the power of nature to produce electricity, hydro power
being one of them. Although it is an important renewable energy for the
future, there is still much controversy over its long-term
environmental impact.


Tim McDonald and his wife have been living off the grid since June 2008. If you want to learn to get off the grid and save thousands on your electricity bills, then be sure to Try Earth4Energy For FREE, and learn to make your own diy renewable energy at home.