Water

Hydro Electricity

We humans are dependent on many things for our survival. For example, we can not think of our lives without the basic elements such as water, and oxygen. Water plays an important role not only in our lives but also in every species’ lives that exist on this planet. Apart from its life giving and protecting ability, we also know that it has this immense power of destruction and can destroy any human creation in minutes, especially after witnessing 2000 tsunami. It destroyed thousands of lives and million dollars worth of properties.

In that count, this article is going to talk about one of the important uses of water that most people have heard of but less understood. Most of us are aware that hydro power is utilized to produce hydro electricity. However, how many of us know what it is, why we need it and how it is produced?

Even though the world energy consumption saw a slight decrease in 2009, it grew in 2010 by 5%. Especially, it shows no sign of decrease in developing economies such as India and China. To produce electricity, many countries chose nuclear, natural gas, and coal. Between 1965 and 2008, the use of fossil fuel became prominent. Especially coal, the dirtiest energy source, and oil are two of the most used sources to produce different types of energy. For example, in 2000, China used 28% of coal, North America used 25% and the European Union used 14% of all the coal that was mined. In 2009, China almost doubled the amount of coal usage and it went up to 47%. In addition to that, the use of oil also doubled in that time period (2000-2009). In the next twenty years, the world’s energy need is expected to increase exponentially along with the population growth.

The use of fossil fuel may bring some short term economic advantages; the negative consequences that result from its usage actually pose a threat to our planet’s well being in the long run. After seeing and experiencing some dramatic environmental changes, countries and environmental organizations are now encouraging the increased production of renewable energy, such as hydro electricity, solar energy and wind energy. Let’s look at one form of renewable energy –

hydro electricity

, analyze its advantages and disadvantages in using it for our energy needs.

Hydro Electricity: How is it produced?

This particular form of electricity is produced by using the force of falling water. For example, running water from rivers is held behind a dam which forms an artificial reservoir. Water builds potential energy when it is kept at a height, once it is released from that height, the potential energy gets converted into kinetic energy and the water runs with tremendous amount of force. This force is then used to spin a giant turbine’s blades. A generator is connected to the turbine which produces electricity while it is spinning. Once the water passes the turbine, the water is directed into the river that continues to flow.

The amount of hydro electricity produced around the world:

Major industrialized countries that use hydroelectric power to produce electric energy are – Paraguay, Norway, Venezuela, New Zealand, Brazil, Switzerland, and Canada.

Paraguay

, for example, produces all of its electricity (100%) from its hydroelectric dams. In addition to its usage, it exports almost 90% of its production to countries like Brazil and Argentina.

Norway

is also one of the great examples where its electricity need is fulfilled through hydroelectricity. Around 98-99% of their electricity is produced from country’s hydroelectric sources.

Advantages:

No Pollution:

Relatively no pollution is associated with the production of hydro electricity, compared to those fossil fuels which produce tremendous amount of green house gases during their process of producing energy. However, minimal amount of pollution is involved in the initial stages of building the plants.

Renewable:

This is one of the major advantages of using hydro electricity.

Cheap:

Once it is built and running, it does not need many people to run the operations of the station. Most plants around the world are automated. This is one of the reasons why hydro electricity is the most affordable form of energy in those countries that depend on it.

Long operating years:

Hydro electric plants can run for many years (fifty to hundred) after they are built.

Disadvantages:

Dams are expensive to build:

This is one of the draw backs of using hydro electric power

Environmental change:

It changes the habitat and as well as the upstream landscape, because most land would be submersed into the water once the dam is built.

Dam failures:

Hydro electric dam failures could cause numerous fatalities. For example, in the US, between 1918 and 1958, there were around 33 major failures of dams which resulted into 1680 fatalities.  Between 1959 and 1965, there were around 9 major dam failures around the world. However, in 21st century, due to all the technological advancements, the failure rate of dams has decreased recently.

Even though there are many advantages associated with the use of hydro electricity, many countries that actually have the resources to produce hydro electricity are not using them. Especially many African countries would fall under this list, which are gifted with many rivers and mountains. One of the major reasons why these countries are lacking in building the hydro electricity plants is because they do not have enough money to invest on those projects. Instead of investing on digging out fossil fuel, the world should invest on developing renewable energy for the betterment of our future generations.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *