Hydroelectric power is electricity that is generated by using the movement of water. To create electricity a power source such as steam, wind or running water turns a turbine. The turbine spins a large magnet or many large magnets inside a coil of copper wire. This creates mechanical energy which is converted into electrical energy via the magnets and copper wire. This electricity is then stored and sent through electrical wires to houses and businesses.
Most power stations rely on fossil fuels to run. The fossil fuel is burned to heat large vats of water which produce steam. This steam turns the turbines. This is not a renewable source of power and creates considerable amounts of pollution. Hydroelectric power stations used the movement of falling water to turn the turbines. In most cases a dam is built across a large river and the water is channeled through the turbines and released out of the other side. In some cases hydroelectric plants take advantage of tidal movements to generate power. Many have numerous reservoirs which can increase and decrease the power supply depending on demand.
Advantages of Hydroelectric power
- The biggest and most important advantage of hydroelectric power is that it is a renewable power source. It uses the natural progression nature and waterways to generate electricity.
- Another huge advantage of hydroelectric power is that once built a hydroelectric plant produces no direct waste and a considerable lower level of carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon dioxide is only produced during the construction stage and none is produced by the actual functioning plant.
- Hydroelectric power stations have very low running costs as there is no need to buy fuel. This means when fossil fuel prices skyrocket, hydroelectric plants are unaffected. It also means that the price of electricity for consumers is constant.
- Hydroelectric plants last for a lot longer that fossil fuel powered stations. They are easy to maintain and safe to work in.
- Hydroelectric plants can be added to existing dams meaning that there is no need to build a new dam and potentially cause more damage to the river system.
- Hydroelectricity is a highly reliable source of renewable energy and can increase to full power very quickly.
- Hydroelectric dams can be used for water sports and to irrigate farms. These dams can be used to prevent large scale flooding.