Electricity is the life blood of the modern world. Most of us cannot imagine life without electricity and the various appliances and services powered by it. Now, there are multiple ways in which electricity is generated, but the most popular and widely used method all over the world is generation of electricity using water, called hydroelectricity. Also known as hydropower, it refers to the conversion of energy from flowing water into electricity.
How does Hydroelectricity work?
It’s a fairly simple process to explain. To generate hydroelectricity, flowing water is used to turn huge turbines. When the turbines spin, they generate mechanical energy. This mechanical energy is converted into electrical energy using generators.
Types of Hydroelectric Power Plants
1. Dam based :
In this method, dams are built to harness the power of water. The hydroelectric power plant is built as a part of the dam. Water in the dam is released and directed towards the turbines, which cause them to spin, thereby generating electricity. Water may even be stored at the base of the dam in a reservoir. This water can be pumped up into the dam, to meet high demands in electricity.
2. Run of River based :
The electricity generating method remains the same. The only difference in this method is that instead of building the plant as a part of a dam, the hydroelectric power plant is built close to a river. A small portion of the river is redirected to spin the turbines in the plant, and generate electricity.
Both these methods are excellent, but not without their own pros and cons.
Pros and Cons of Hydroelectric Power Generation –
- The dam method is excellent because it gives us greater control over the generation process. Water can be stored and released as needed, which means demands for electricity can be met more efficiently. On the other hand, building a dam is expensive. Not to mention that building a dam changes the surrounding environment and ecology as well. Also, the consequences of breakage or damage to the dams are serious! A dam breakage can cause large scale damage to its surrounding flora and fauna. These are all important factors to consider when building a dam based hydroelectric plant.
- The run of the river method is more benign as far as natural consequences are considered. On the down side though, this method relies on the natural availability of water, which could mean fluctuations in electricity supply and reduced control over the production of electricity.
All things considered, hydroelectricity is still the most widely used method of generating electricity all over the world, and for good reason! Hydroelectricity is a clean source of energy, as it does not involve pollution and emissions in the process of generating electricity. It is also considered a renewable source of energy, because the key ingredient, i.e. water is renewed in the water cycle.