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What is Hydro Power?

Electricians and Energy Topics
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Hydro power is one of the most widely used renewable resources. Currently, this resource produces 71% of the United States’ renewable energy.

Hydro power has been used for thousands of years. Originally, it was used to turn paddles to grind large amounts of grain. However, the energy harnessed could only serve those closest to the hydro power plant. Now we have technology that allows hydro power to have greater reach. Currently, it can be transmitted across larger distances; providing more people access to this energy source.

How Hydro Power Works

Water is typically held behind a dam which creates a man-made lake. Some people refer to this body of water as a reservoir. The water is directed in a controlled flow through a dam which spins large turbines. This process creates energy –turning water from kinetic energy into mechanical energy. After the water has passed through the dam, it continues to flow downriver.

Where Hydro Power is Generated

Over 50% of the United States’ hydro power is generated from three states: Washington, Oregon, and California. Washington produces the most hydro power and has the largest power plant, which is located on Grand Coulee Dam.

Although many hydro power plants supply 8,000 households or more, they can also be very small. Some plants supply electricity to a single household or a very small community.

This type of energy is also a clean renewable resource. The costs to produce hydro power are less than other options, and the energy source is reliable.

Amount of Hyrdro Energy Produced

Since hydro power is created by the motion of water falling, the larger the distance water falls, the greater amount of energy will be produced. For this reason, dams are often created to generate more “falling power.” This allows the water to be elevated, creating more speed when the water falls.

Another factor in the amount of energy produced is the volume of water falling. For example, a very large body of water falling a great distance will create a substantial amount of power, while a small body of water falling the same distance will create much less power.

When creating a hydro power plant, there are formulas that professionals can use to determine how much power will be created by building the plant. This allows them to determine how many households can be powered by the energy produced.

Related topics: Green Energy, Geothermal Energy, Wind Farms, Nuclear Energy

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