Hydroelectric Energy - A Clean and Continuous Source of Power
What is hydroelectric energy and how can it be used? What are its advantages and disadvantages as a source of clean and renewable energy?
How can flowing water produce power? What is hydroelectric energy and how can we use it?
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 first putting up a dam to store water in a reservoir. Water is then released on 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 is, the greater the amount of 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 energy needed by Las Vegas. But as years passed by, Las Vegas has grown, and the plants' outputs have become 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 run, 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 generally can produce energy 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 can provide another source of income for 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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