As one of the oldest power sources on Earth, it helps to know several interesting facts about hydropower. Below are just some of the things that will amaze you about this form of renewable energy.
1. Hydropower, much like wind power, is generated by having a renewable energy source—in this case, water—spin a wheel or turbine. This hydro-wheel-power system dates back to the prime of ancient Greece when farmers would use it for mechanical tasks, such as grinding grain.
2. Because hydropower is a renewable energy source, it doesn’t produce pollution or toxic byproducts and doesn’t use fossil fuels or electricity.
3. Hydropower doesn’t require a huge facility as big as the Hoover Dam to be obtained. There are also small facilities that take advantage of water flowing in municipal water facilities or irrigation ditches and are perfectly capable of producing power. Some don’t even have dams at all, with only diversions allowing small streams of water flow through a powerhouse before the water connects to the main river.
4. America’s first hydroelectric generating facility was the historic Niagara Falls. Back then in 1881 when it was built, inventor Charles Brush used connected water turbines that were powered by the falls to a generator that helped power nighttime lighting for visiting tourists. The country’s first commercial hydropower facility was built the following year in Appleton, Wisconsin and was able to power a paper mill and several homes.
5. Every state greatly benefits from hydropower. In fact, over 70% of Washington State’s electricity comes from it, while 11 states get more than 10% of their electricity from it.
6. Hydropower comes cheap, unlike many other energy sources. If you get most of your electricity from hydropower—like Idaho, Washington, and Oregon do—you get to enjoy energy bills lower than the rest of the country.
7. There are some hydropower facilities that can go from having no power at all to having maximum output in a short amount of time, which makes hydropower ideal for sudden changes in demand for electricity. Hydropower plants can also send power to the grid immediately, so they’re the perfect candidate for backing uppower during country-wide major electricity disruptions. These are only some of its many advantages to the power grid.
8. There’s another type of hydropower called pumped storage, which stores electricity by other power sources such as solar, wind and nuclear for later use. How does it work? Simple. Huge amounts ofwater is pumped from a lower elevated reservoir to a higher elevated second reservoir. When it’s time to use the power, the water is released and turns a turbine, which then generates electricity.
9. Water dams of hydropower facilities promote good life for water creatures. Devices at dams, such asfish ladders and elevators, help them migrate around dams and between sections of rivers.
10. According to the Energy Information Administration, hydroelectricity makes about half of the electricity from all renewable sources and provides about 7% of the electricity generated in all of United States. But even with the big numbers, there are thousands of other existing dams that have yet to become hydropower generating facilities. Only 3% of the nation’s 80,000 dams are generating power and there can be up to 12 gigawatts of hydroelectric generating capacity that could still be added to existing dams around the country. Just imagine the amount of power that can still be produced without having to use pollution-causing energy!