Why Does Hydropower Work?
One of the earliest and most significant types of renewable energy, hydropower or hydroelectric power harnesses the naturally occurring flow of flowing water to produce electricity. In the United States, hydropower now generates 6.2% of all electricity and 28.7% of all renewable electricity.
Hydropower facilities exist in many shapes and sizes, despite the fact that the majority of people may equate the energy source with the Hoover Dam—a massive structure that captures the power of an entire river behind its wall. They might be small or quite huge, depending on the water flow in irrigation ditches or municipal water systems. They may even be “damless,” using run-of-river or diverting facilities that send a portion of a stream through a generator before it returns to the main river. Whatever the approach, hydropower is more accessible than most people know and is employed in a variety of applications. In actuality, all states—apart from Delaware and Mississippi—use hydropower in some capacity or another to generate electricity. For instance, hydropower provided roughly 66% of the electricity used in the state of Washington in 2020.
The firm capacity associated with the flexibility of U.S. hydropower is anticipated to be over 24 GW, according to early research in a study on hydropower flexibility led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. It would take longer to build out 24 GW of 10-hour storage than there is already in the United States in order to replace this capability with storage. Furthermore, in terms of combining wind and solar, the adaptability offered by current hydropower plants in the United States might support the installation of up to 137 gigawatts of new wind and solar power by 2035.
Hydropower – How Does It Work?
Water flowing in on one side and out, far below, on the other is used by hydropower technologies to create electricity by taking advantage of the elevation difference formed by a dam or other diversion construction. The “Hydropower 101” video from the Department of Energy discusses the principles of hydropower and displays some of the work being done in this field by the Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO).
What Does Hydropower Cost?
A more cheap source of electricity than most is hydropower. States like Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, which rely mostly on hydropower for their electricity production, have cheaper energy costs than the rest of the nation since hydropower solely uses the energy from flowing water.
Hydropower also offers comparatively cheap expenses over the course of a whole project lifetime in terms of upkeep, operations, and fuel compared to other energy sources. Like any major energy source, hydropower has considerable upfront expenses that cannot be avoided, but because of its extended lifespan, these costs are dispersed over time. Additionally, the machinery employed at hydropower plants frequently lasts longer before needing to be replaced or repaired, saving money over time.
Large hydropower facility installation expenses are mostly made up of charges for electromechanical equipment (machines used to generate electricity) and civil construction work (dams, tunnels, and other essential infrastructure). Hydropower is a site-specific technology, thus by carefully choosing the location and design at the planning stage, these expenses may be reduced.
What Advantages Does Hydropower Offer?
Since ancient times, people have understood and utilized hydropower’s advantages. Hydropower plants are a flexible and dependable source of backup power during significant power outages or interruptions, in addition to being a clean and economical source of energy. They may rapidly supply electricity to the system. In addition to producing energy, hydropower also has other advantages including flood control, irrigation support, and water supply.
What Hydropower’s History Is It?
Hydropower has a long history that extends back thousands of years. For instance, more than 2,000 years ago, the Greeks ground wheat into flour using water wheels. After Bernard Forest de Bélidor, a French hydraulic and military engineer, published Architecture Hydraulique in the middle of the eighteenth century, the modern hydropower turbine began to take shape. The first half of the 19th century saw a number of significant advances in hydropower technology, and more recently, the 20th century has seen a number of hydroelectric innovations that have helped hydropower become a crucial component of the renewable energy mix in the United States.