Hydropower, also known as water power, is the use of falling or fast-running water to produce electricity or to power machines. This is achieved by converting the gravitational potential or kinetic energy of a water source to produce power. Hydropower is a method of sustainable energy production.
In this blog, Pritish Kumar Halder discusses about Hydropower system, which is used to produce power and is based on KInetic Energy,
Since ancient times, hydropower from watermills has been used as a renewable energy source for irrigation and the operation of mechanical devices, such as gristmills, sawmills, textile mills, trip hammers, and dock cranes, domestic lifts, and ore mills. A Trompe, which produces compressed air from falling water, is sometimes used to power other machinery at a distance.
Hydropower is now used principally for hydroelectric power generation and is also applied as one-half of an energy storage system known as pumped-storage hydroelectricity.
Hydropower is an attractive alternative to fossil fuels as it does not directly produce carbon dioxide or other atmospheric pollutants and it provides a relatively consistent source of power. Nonetheless, it has economic, sociological, and environmental downsides and requires a sufficiently energetic source of water, such as a river or elevated lake. International institutions such as the World Bank view hydropower as a low-carbon means for economic development.
Disadvantages and limitations
Some disadvantages of hydropower have been identified. People who live near a hydro plant site are displaced during construction or when reservoir banks become unstable. Another potential disadvantage is cultural or religious sites may block construction.
Dams and reservoirs can have major negative impacts on river ecosystems such as preventing some animals traveling upstream, cooling and de-oxygenating of water released downstream, and loss of nutrients due to settling of particulates. River sediment builds river deltas and dams prevent them from restoring what is lost from erosion. Large and deep dam and reservoir plants cover large areas of land which causes greenhouse gas emissions from underwater rotting vegetation.
Furthermore, although at lower levels than other renewable energy sources, it was found that hydropower produces methane gas which is a greenhouse gas. This occurs when organic matters accumulate at the bottom of the reservoir because of the deoxygenation of water which triggers anaerobic digestion. Furthermore, studies found that the construction of dams and reservoirs can result in habitat loss for some aquatic species.
Dam failures can have catastrophic effects, including loss of life, property and pollution of land.
A watermill or water mill is a mill that uses hydropower. It is a structure that uses a water wheel or water turbine to drive a mechanical process such as milling (grinding), rolling, or hammering. Such processes are needed in the production of many material goods, including flour, lumber, paper, textiles, and many metal products. These watermills may comprise gristmills, sawmills, paper mills, textile mills, hammermills, trip hammering mills, rolling mills, wire drawing mills.
One major way to classify watermills is by wheel orientation (vertical or horizontal), one powered by a vertical waterwheel through a gear mechanism, and the other equipped with a horizontal waterwheel without such a mechanism. The former type can be further divided, depending on where the water hits the wheel paddles, into undershot, overshot, breastshot and pitchback (backshot or reverse shot) waterwheel mills. Another way to classify water mills is by an essential trait about their location: tide mills use the movement of the tide; ship mills are water mills onboard a ship.
Watermills impact the river dynamics of the watercourses where they are installed. During the time watermills operate channels tend to sedimentate, particularly backwater. Also in the backwater area, inundation events and sedimentation of adjacent floodplains increase. Over time however these effects are cancelled by river banks becoming higher. Where mills have been removed, river incision increases and channels deepen.
Hydroelectricity is the biggest hydropower application. Hydroelectricity generates about 15% of global electricity and provides at least 50% of the total electricity supply for more than 35 countries.
Hydroelectricity generation starts with converting either the potential energy of water that is present due to the site’s elevation or the kinetic energy of moving water into electrical energy.
Hydroelectric power plants vary in terms of the way they harvest energy. One type involves a dam and a reservoir. The water in the reservoir is available on demand to be used to generate electricity by passing through channels that connect the dam to the reservoir. The water spins a turbine, which is connected to the generator that produces electricity.
The other type is called a run-of-river plant. In this case, a barrage is built to control the flow of water, absent a reservoir. The run-of river power plant needs continuous water flow and therefore has less ability to provide power on demand. The kinetic energy of flowing water is the main source of energy.
Both designs have limitations. For example, dam construction can result in discomfort to nearby residents. The dam and reservoirs occupy a relatively large amount of space that may be opposed by nearby communities. Moreover, reservoirs can potentially have major environmental consequences such as harming downstream habitats.
On the other hand, the limitation of the run-of-river project is the decreased efficiency of electricity generation because the process depends on the speed of the seasonal river flow. This means that the rainy season increases electricity generation compared to the dry season.
The size of hydroelectric plants can vary from small plants called micro hydro, to large plants supply that power to a whole country. As of 2019, the five largest power stations in the world are conventional hydroelectric power stations with dams.
Hydroelectricity can also be used to store energy in the form of potential energy between two reservoirs at different heights with pumped-storage. Water is pumped uphill into reservoirs during periods of low demand to be released for generation when demand is high or system generation is low.