Hydro Power Is One Of Our Greatest Sources Of Renewable Energy
In this post we tackle one of the most problematic, yet highly efficient means of reaping the rewards of renewable energy on a personal level; using the kinetic energy of water to power your electricity. .
First of all; the basics. As this rather dramatic picture of the hydroelectric plant in Columbia shows,hydroelectric power refers toelectricity generated by hydro-power; that is the production of electrical power through the use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. This type of power is one of the most widely used on large scales due to its many advantages over other types of energy generation. It accounts for approximately 20% of the world's electricity and about 88% of electricity from renewable sources.
This method of garnering energy at hydroelectric complexes has taken off massively in recent years, hitting unprecedented levels of usages; the Three Gorges Dam in China at 22,500 MW being the largest to date. Hydroelectricity has eventually supplied some countries, including Norway,Democratic Republic of the Congo, Paraguay and Brazil, with over 85% of their electricity (nearly 90% in Norway). Even the US has gotten in on the act, with currently over 2,000 hydroelectric power plants which supply around 49% of its renewable electricity.
So, how does it work? BASICALLY, in a hydropower system, dams on a river capture its power and direct the fast-flowing water through turbines and turning generators to produce electricity. The difference between the water levels above and below the turbine and the rate of water flow determine the amount of power generated.
However, this of little use to the average homeowner who doesn’t have a convenient river/dam, or the funding to build one. On a personal level, it is the use of Pico-hydro that becomes applicable. Pico-hydro is a term used for hydroelectric power generation of under5KW.
Pico-hydro setups typically arerun-of-the-river; meaning that dams are not used, but rather pipes divert some of the flow, drop this down a gradient, and through the turbine before returning it to the stream.
The main parts of this systemare intake from stream or river, pipe (known as the penstock), water turbine, electrical generator, electronic controller, electrical distribution system, but they can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, as seen here.