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Content derived from Wikipedia article on Hydroelectricity


Hydroelectricity is electricity obtained from hydropower. Most hydroelectric power comes from the potential energy of dammed water driving a water turbine and generator, although less common variations use water's kinetic energy or dammed sources, such as tidal power. Hydroelectricity is a renewable energy source.


The energy extracted from water depends not only on the volume but on the difference in height between the source and the water's outflow. This height difference is called the head. The amount of potential energy in water is proportional to the head. To obtain very high head, water for a hydraulic turbine may be run through a large pipe called a penstock.


While many supply public electricity networks, some hydroelectric projects were created for private commercial purposes. For example, aluminium processing requires substantial amounts of electricity, and often dedicated hydroelectric projects are built to serve aluminium electrolytic plants. In the Scottish Highlands there are examples at Kinlochleven and Lochaber, constructed during the early years of the 20th century. In Suriname, the 'van Blommestein' lake, dam and power station were constructed to provide electricity for the Alcoa aluminum industry.


In parts of Canada (the provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador) hydroelectricity is used so extensively that the word "hydro" is used to refer to any electricity delivered by a power utility. The government-run power utilities in these provinces are called BC Hydro, Manitoba Hydro, Hydro One (formerly "Ontario Hydro"), Hydro-Québec and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro respectively. Hydro-Québec is the world's largest hydroelectric generating company, with a total installed capacity (2005) of 31,512 MW.




The major advantage of hydro systems is elimination of the cost of fuel. Hydroelectric plants are immune to price increases for fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas or coal, and do not require imported fuel. Hydroelectric plants tend to have longer lives than fuel-fired generation, with some plants now in service having been built 50 to 100 years ago. Operating labor cost is usually low since plants are automated and have few personnel on site during normal operation.


Pumped storage plants currently provide the only commercially important means for energy storage on a scale useful for a utility. Low-value generation in off-peak times occurs because fossil-fuel and nuclear plants cannot be entirely shut down on a daily basis. This energy is used to store water that can be released during high load daily peaks. Operation of pumped-storage plants improves the daily load factor of the generation system.


Reservoirs created by hydroelectric schemes often provide facilities for water sports, and become tourist attractions in themselves. Multi-use dams installed for irrigation, flood control, or recreation, may have a hydroelectric plant added with relatively low construction cost, providing a useful revenue stream to offset the cost of dam operation.








A warning for boaters at O'Shaughnessy DamHydroelectric projects can be disruptive to surrounding aquatic ecosystems. For instance, studies have shown that dams along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America have reduced salmon populations by preventing access to spawning grounds upstream, even though most dams in salmon habitat have fish ladders installed. Salmon smolt are also harmed on their migration to sea when they must pass through turbines. This has led to some areas barging smolt downstream during parts of the year. Turbine and power-plant designs that are easier on aquatic life are an active area of research.


Generation of hydroelectric power impacts on the downstream river environment. Water exiting a turbine usually contains very little suspended sediment, which can lead to scouring of river beds and loss of riverbanks. Since turbines are often opened intermittently, rapid or even daily fluctuations in river flow are observed. For example, in the Grand Canyon, the daily cyclic flow variation caused by Glen Canyon Dam was found to be contributing to erosion of sand bars. Dissolved oxygen content of the water may change from pre-construction conditions. Water exiting from turbines is typically much colder than the pre-dam water, which can change aquatic faunal populations, including endangered species.


The reservoirs of hydroelectric power plants in tropical regions may produce substantial amounts of methane and carbon dioxide. This is due to plant material in flooded areas decaying in an anaerobic environment, and forming methane, a very potent greenhouse gas. According to the World Commission on Dams report, where the reservoir is large compared to the generating capacity (less than 100 watts per square metre of surface area) and no clearing of the forests in the area was undertaken prior to impoundment of the reservoir, greenhouse gas emissions from the reservoir may be higher than those of a conventional oil-fired thermal generation plant. In boreal reservoirs of Canada and Northern Europe, however, greenhouse gas emissions are typically only 2 to 8% of any kind of conventional thermal generation. The contributive effect of forest decay can be mitigated by a new class of underwater logging operation targeting drowned forests.


Another disadvantage of hydroelectric dams is the need to relocate the people living where the reservoirs are planned. In many cases, no amount of compensation can replace ancestral and cultural attachments to places that have spiritual value to the displaced population. Additionally, historically and culturally important sites can be flooded and lost. Such problems have arisen at the Three Gorges Dam project in China, the Clyde Dam in New Zealand and the Ilısu Dam in Southeastern Turkey.


The Dnieper Hydroelectric Station (1927-32) was the centerpiece of Lenin's GOELRO plan.Recreational users of the reservoir or downstream areas are exposed to hazards due to changing water levels, and must be wary of power plant intakes and spillway operation.


The creation of a dam in a geologically inappropriate location may cause disasters like the one of the Vajont Dam in Italy, where almost 2000 people died, in 1963.


Some hydroelectric projects also utilize canals, typically to divert a river at a shallower gradient to increase the head of the scheme. In some cases, the entire river may be diverted leaving a dry riverbed. Examples include the Tekapo and Pukaki Rivers.






Hydro-electric facts


Oldest hydro-electric power stations:


Cragside, Rothbury, England completed 1870.

Appleton, Wisconsin, USA completed 1882, A waterwheel on the Fox river supplied the first commercial hydroelectric power for lighting to two paper mills and a house, two years after Thomas Edison demonstrated incandescent lighting to the public. Within a matter of weeks of this installation, a power plant was also put into commercial service at Minneapolis.

Duck Reach, Launceston, Tasmania. Completed 1895. The first publicly owned hydro-electric plant in the Southern Hemisphere. Supplied power to the city of Launceston for street lighting.

Decew Falls 1, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada completed 25 August 1898. Owned by Ontario Power Generation. Four units are still operational. Recognized as an IEEE Milestone in Electrical Engineering & Computing by the IEEE Executive Committee in 2002.

It is believed that the oldest Hydro Power site in the United States is located on Claverack Creek, in Stottville, NY 11721 . The turbine, a Morgan Smith, was constructed in 1869 and installed 2 years later. It is one of the earliest water wheel installations in the United States and also generated electricity. It is owned today by Edison Hydro.


Largest hydro-electric power stations


The La Grande Complex in Quebec, Canada, is the world's largest hydroelectric generating system. The eight generating stations of the complex have a total generating capacity of 16,021 MW. The Robert Bourassa station alone has a capacity of 5,616 MW. A ninth station (Eastmain-1) is currently under construction and will add 480 MW to the total. Construction on an additional project on the Rupert River was started on January 11, 2007. It will add two stations with a combined capacity of 888 MW.


Name – Country - Time of completion - Total Capacity - Max annual electricity production


Itaipú Brazil/Paraguay 1984/1991/2003 14,000 MW 93.4 TW-hours

Guri Venezuela 1986 10,200 MW 46 TW-hours

Three Gorges Dam China 2004* 9,800 MW(2006)18,200 MW(when complete) 84,7 TW-hours

Grand Coulee United States 1942/1980 6,809 MW 22.6 TW-hours

Sayano Shushenskaya Russia 1983 6,721 MW 23.6 TW-hours

Krasnoyarskaya Russia 1972 6,000 MW 20.4 TW-hours

Robert-Bourassa Canada 1981 5,616 MW

Churchill Falls Canada 1971 5,429 MW 35 TW-hours

Bratskaya Russia 1967 4,500 MW 22.6 TW-hours

Ust Ilimskaya Russia 1980 4,320 MW 21.7 TW-hours

Yaciretá Argentina/Paraguay 1998 4,050 MW 19.1 TW-hours

Ertan Dam China 1999 3,300 MW(550MW×6) 17.0 TW-hours

Gezhouba Dam China 1988 3,115 MW 17.01 TW-hours

Nurek Dam Tajikistan 1979/1988 3,000 MW 

Volzhskaya (Volgogradskaya) Russia 1961 2,541 MW 12.3 TW-hours

Atatürk Dam Turkey 1990 2,400 MW 

Zhiguliovskaya (Samarskaya) Russia 1957 2,300 MW 10.5 TW-hours

Iron Gates Romania/Serbia 1970 2,280 MW 11.3 TW-hours

Aswan Egypt 1970 2,100 MW 

Tarbela Dam Pakistan 1976 2,100 MW 

Hoover Dam United States 1936/1961 2,080 MW 

Cahora Bassa Mozambique 1975 2,075 MW 

Karun III Dam Iran 2007 2,000 MW 4,1 TW-hours


* Powered first 14 water turbogenerators


These are ranked by maximum power.


Countries with the most hydro-electric capacity


Country, total annual hydroelectricity production, total capacity installed


People's Republic of China, 416,700 GWh (128,570 MW installed)(2006)[2]

Canada, 396,700 GWh (68,974 MW installed)

Brazil, 285,603 GWh (57,517 MW installed)(1999)

USA, 260,400 GWh (79,511 MW installed)

Russia, 169,700 GWh (46,100 MW installed)(1999)

India, 125,126 GWh (33,600 MW installed)(2006)

Norway, 180,800 GWh (27,528 MW installed)

Japan, 88,500 GWh (27,229 MW installed)

France, 56,100 GWh (25,335 MW installed)


These are 2005 figures and include pumped-storage hydroelectricity schemes. GWh means giga-watt-hour, which equal to 1 million kWh (kilo-watt-hour) equal to 3.6×10^12 Joule, equal to 123.0 tons(1000 kilogram) of standard coal, equal to 86 ton of standard oil.


Related topics


Hydroelectric power


List of energy topics

Wave power

Tidal power

List of reservoirs and dams

Small hydro

Pumped-storage hydroelectricity

Environmental concerns with electricity generation




Web Resources


Hydroelectric Power - Hydroelectricity or hydroelectric power is the electricity obtained by harnessing the power of water flowing down from a high level. It is a timeless and renewable resource. Huge generators convert the potential energy of falling or fast moving water into electrical energy. The potential energy of the water is first converted into mechanical energy and then into electrical energy.


Hydroelectricity - The first thing you need to know about hydroelectricity is what it is. Hydroelectricity is energy produced from falling water. One way we get hydroelectricity is by hydroelectric dams.


Power generation in Southeastern Pennsylvania - hydroelectricity - Hydroelectricity is one of the many ways you can generate power. Hydroelectricity uses water to generate electricity. Hydroelectricity uses a dam on a river. The dam regulates the flow of water. Since the water has potential energy at the top of the dam, it allows the electricity to be generated.


Diagram of the Process of Hydroelectric Power Generation - This diagram shows the profile of a hydroelectric dam. On the upstream side of the dam is the reservoir. The water enters the dam through the sluice gates in the dam and goes down to the turbines. The bigger the height difference between the intake and the turbines the greater the amount of electricity the water can produce. As the turbine is turned by the water, the energy travels to the generator and then the electrical energy goes to the transformer. Both the generator and transformer are found in the power house. From the transformer the electricity is transmitted through cables to the electrical grid. Once the water has passed through the turbines it then passes out of the dam and continues down the course of the river.


Hydroelectric Power Plants - This article discusses the functioning of a hydroelectric power plant and its importance to the world today.


About Hydroelectric Energy - Learn about renewable energy technologies and their useful applications.


NTPC to Make Foray into Hydro-electricity - The National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd (NTPC) intends to make major forays into hydro-power generation in view of easy availability of water supply in different parts of the country and environmental benefits of hydro power.


Hydroelectric power water use - Hydro power must be one of the oldest methods of producing power. No doubt, Jack the Caveman stuck some sturdy leaves on a pole and put it in a moving stream. The water would spin the pole that crushed grain to make their delicious, low-fat prehistoric bran muffins. People have used moving water to help them in their work throughout history, and modern people make great use of moving water to produce electricity.


SOA generates savings for hydroelectric company in China - Ertan Hydropower Development Company, Ltd. (EHDC), which builds and operates electric generating dams along the Yalong River in Sichuan Province of China., service-oriented architecture may be a life saver, literally.


National Hydropower Association, Dam, Conduit, Ocean, River, Tidal, Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Trade Association - This was our first step toward giving the American people and those inside the Beltway much-needed information about hydropower.


Understanding Hydroelectric Equipment - Hydroelectric facilities use the following equipment to generate electricity.


Hydroelectricity - Hydroelectricity is obtained from the energy contained in falling water; it is a renewable, comparatively nonpolluting energy source and Canada's largest source of electric-power generation. In N America in the 1850s the.


How Hydroelectric Energy Works - Information on renewable energy, including wind and solar power; nuclear-power safety issues and work of the Union of Concerned Scientists to switch America to clean, safe, renewable, and affordable power.


Trestle Hydroelectric Station - Generator - web site about advanced ideas and methods how we can to generate the ideas and to resolve difficult inventive problems.


Hydroelectricity - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - Hydroelectricity is a form of hydropower, and is the most widely used form of renewable energy. It produces no waste, and does not produce carbon dioxide (CO2) which contributes to greenhouse gases. Hydroelectricity now supplies about 715,000 MWe or 19% of world electricity (16% in 2003), accounting for over 63% of the total electricity from renewable in 2005.


Hydroelectric Power: Risks and Rewards - Historical Growth of Hydroelectric power


Sima hydro-electric power station - The Sima power station, which started generating in 1980, uses water from several river basins. This makes more water available to the power station and also enables more water to be stored in reservoirs.


Hydroelectric Project - Water is power: how a small-scale hydroelectric project in Honduras is enabling sustainable development with the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).


Hydroelectric: Case Studies - Examples of hydroelectric energy projects.


Micro Hydroelectric Systems - Renewable Resources Micro Hydroelectric Systems.


Hydroelectric Power -  

What is hydro electricity?

How does it work?

Is it renewable?

Applications of hydroelectricity



Hydro power in South Africa

Interesting information


Hydroelectric power: How it works - Take a look at this diagram (courtesy of the Tennessee Valley Authority) of a hydroelectric power plant to see the details


Low-head hydroelectric installation - Low-head hydroelectric installation, in particular for a tidal power station, intended to operate under variable heads of water that can fall to values in the region of zero. When the head of water is…


Hydroelectric machines and their installation - A hydroelectric installation comprising an electric machine and a hydraulic machine, the electric machine being installed above the hydraulic machine in an installation pit.


Small Hydroelectric Plants - In the continental United States, most rivers and streams capable of producing huge amounts of hydroelectric power have been harnessed; however, this does not preclude the possibility of using mini-hydroelectric power as a source of energy supply for home or farm.


Hydropower FAQ - What are the advantages and disadvantages of hydroelectric power system? ... Generating hydroelectricity starts with the annual hydrologic, or water cycle...


Hydroelectric energy –new trends shaping IEC standards - Future perspectives on electro technology, 2122 Nov 2006 at IEC Asia Pacific Regional Centre.


Hydroelectric Generator Maintenance - It’s hard to beat Mother Nature when it comes to maximizing efficiency in performing any task from creating soap bubbles to extraordinary plants that adapt and survive their environment under extreme, adverse conditions. The same idea of efficiency holds true for producing the electricity the North American continent consumes in sustaining manufacturing and a high quality of life.


The future of hydroelectric power: advantages and disadvantages - Discover a reflection about the future of hydroelectric power:  advantages and disadvantages


Disadvantages of Hydropower - Not Just Water Over the Dam - Let's look at the disadvantages of hydropower. Despite the fact that the United States and other countries gain a large percent of electricity from hydropower, there are a few disadvantages of hydropower.




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This page uses material from the Wikipedia article Hydroelectricity


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