Hydropower is renewable energy derived from the force of running water and falling water. It is a renewable energy source, which is used for the mechanical energy since ancient times and for electricity production (for more than a hundred years).
The mechanical energy of the water is used for centuries. Even the ancient Romans used water power for water mills. Also, the mechanical energy of flowing water is applied to the operation of various plants and machines, such as sawmill, cranes and machines in the textile industry.
After the discovery of the electric generators in the 19th century, people began to build large hydroelectric power plants around the world. These plants have enabled the use of remote energy sources. Electricity production in hydroelectric power plants is the primary and most important use of hydropower today.
It is currently in use (or in development) several forms of water energy. Some forms are purely mechanical, but most are facing the conversion of water energy into electricity. Among the broad areas of application are:
- Water mills, which have been used for centuries to power mills and other machines
- Electricity produced from water, which is commonly referred to as the hydroelectric dams
- Energy watercourses, which is obtained from the motion (kinetic energy) of streams, rivers and oceans
- Eddy energy – derived from the vortex
- Tidal energy (from high tide and ebb tide)
- The energy of ocean waves
- Osmotic power – energy production from the difference in salt concentration between sea and river water
- The energy of ocean currents
- Energy derived from the difference between ocean temperatures at different depths
For a better understanding of hydropower and hydroelectric power plants, it is necessary to know a few characteristics of this potential:
- The theoretical potential of hydro power – It is theoretically possible power that can give a watercourse, regardless of the technical and economic feasibility of the power plant.
- Technically usable water potential – defined based on the elaboration of any technical solution, when it is determined feasible potential of annual energy production.
- Economically exploitable water potential – Part of technically water potential whose exploitation is economically worthwhile.
Today, it uses 18% technically feasible or 28% of the economically exploitable potential in the world. The most untapped reserves are located in developing countries. Hydropower is a source of 715 000 MW, or 19% of the electricity produced in the world today. However, large hydroelectric dams are still projected. Currently the largest hydropower plant in the world is the Three Gorges Dam (of installed capacity 22,500 MW), built in China on the Yangtze River.
The main advantages of hydropower are:
- Flexibility – hydroelectric plants can be quickly adapted to the needs of electricity
- Low energy costs – the main advantage of hydropower is the elimination of fuel costs
- Suitability for industrial application
- Reduction of harmful emissions – particularly CO2
Hydropower provides great opportunities for further development. Although the large rivers are mainly used, smaller rivers and streams provide opportunities for the construction of hydroelectric plants with small dams. They are very suitable for small and micro hydro power plants on the mountain rapid rivers. It should be a priority for every country in the future. Recommended reading: What Is The Hydropower?
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