Any opportunity to use renewable power sources is a chance to offer safe, clean, and cheap energy compared to alternative sources. Hydroelectricity is just one of many sustainable options to provide power to an entire city or just a single building. Hydroelectricity comes in many forms and has several benefits. Below, let's examine hydroelectricity in more depth.
How does water generate power?
The concept behind hydroelectric power is that potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy. Typically, water flows over a mechanical turbine, causing it to rotate. The rotational energy of the turbine triggers a generator to create electricity. It does not necessarily take a large body of water to create hydroelectricity. While some hydroelectric hubs are large dams and reservoirs, simple streams and narrow canals can also be the source of hydroelectric power. Today, about 10% of the United State's power is generated from a hydroelectric source.
What types of hydroelectric power plants exist?
There are four main types of systems that can generate hydroelectric power.
1. The first type is a run-of-river system. This is when a moving body of water, such as a river, continually spins a turbine, which in turn, creates electricity from a generator. Most often, these systems do not have a place to store excess energy produced.
2. The second type of system is called a storage hydropower system. These are usually large dams with reservoirs. When water is released, it falls over a turbine, which spins the mechanism and creates electricity within the generator. These systems can be started or stopped depending on peak demand times for electricity.
3. Another type of hydroelectric system is called pumped-storage hydropower. This system utilizes an upper and lower reservoir system and cycles the water between the two for high and low demand times.
4. Lastly, there is an offshore hydropower system that uses the ocean's tides to generate electricity. These systems are the least common but are quickly growing in popularity.
Are there pros and cons to using hydroelectric energy?
The biggest benefit to using hydroelectric energy is that it requires zero expendable fuels. Hydroelectricity is able to generate power without the contribution of consumable resources such as oil, natural gas, or coal. Therefore, hydroelectricity is a completely green and a viable renewable energy source.
In terms of cost, hydroelectricity is usually a much cheaper alternative energy source. Unfortunately, the biggest downside to using hydroelectric power is the ability to find usable water sources or reservoirs. For small-scale operations, a micro-hydroelectric system can be implemented. These typically are able to create enough power to generate a family home or small farm.
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Our team of engineers at Gausman & Moore cares about finding the best energy sources that create the least amount of impact on the planet. We understand the importance of renewable energy sources and are regularly working to integrate these sources into our commercial buildings and designs.
To learn more about the sustainable work we do, contact our team today today. We have offices in Minneapolis, MN; Santa Clarita, CA, and Duluth, MN.