Hydroelectric power was one of the first solutions that man devised to produce energy. The system that allows the production of hydroelectric energy requires few resources to be able to function. In the process, the water is blocked by a dam, allowing that water reserve to use when needed. Then, the water redirected to a turbine, which is activated and creates energy, which accumulates in the generator. The water, having crossed the turbine, slips away again and returns to the river. It is also essential to consider that the water at the end of the process is reusable and perfectly clean.
Hydroelectric energy is, therefore, renewable energy that transforms large masses of water into electricity. The gravitational energy of these large masses transformed into kinetic energy, through the fall from great heights or by the watercourse’s force itself. Increase potential, dams, reservoirs and penstocks are created along the rivers. The kinetic energy obtained is then transformed through a complex system of turbines and alternators.
How hydroelectric energy works
Hydroelectric energy uses the power of water and its mass to create kinetic energy. Each type of watercourse, river or lake, is directed towards ducts and dams where significant falls occur that cause energy release.
Usually, however, free watercourses are not used as they would not produce enough displacement and energy. Hydroelectric power plants generally use dams to drop water into a penstock, channelled into a turbine. The energy thus produced is conducted in an alternator and a transmitter and is ready to be used.
However, hydroelectric energy can also without the use of a dam. This process that allows you to increase the watercourse’s volume and speed without the use of a barrier is known as “running water production”. However, this method does not allow to stop the flow of water. Still, it is bound to it, unlike the collection basin, which allows, instead, to control the flow of water and generate energy when necessary. Controlling the quantity and timing of generating electricity is undoubtedly a more efficient strategy.
Types of hydroelectric power plants
Hydroelectric power plants differ in the type of plant they use for energy production and are:
Run-of-the-river hydroelectric plants that exploit the natural flow of the river. The water is, therefore, not conducted in a forced manner. Still, it follows the ordinary course of the river, and through this it is pushed against the turbines which, rotating, transforming motion into electricity.
Basin power plants where instead a sort of artificial lake is created and the water do not flow naturally but through penstocks.
Power plants with storage systems similar to reservoirs allow energy to be stored for most significant demand hours. This power plant can also be built on a small scale and allows a very convenient energy supply.
Turbines used in hydroelectric power plants
Various types of turbines are used depending on the specific hydroelectric plant and its characteristics. For example, they vary in consideration of the vertical distance between the upper dam and the turbine or the flow of water that you want to flow towards the turbine.
Turbines can vary the number of blades or change the blades’ pitch, i.e. the distance between them. These changes involve a change in performance, depending on one’s will. Based on their shape, turbines can also modify the movement of the water flow.
Therefore, various types of turbines adapt to the specific hydroelectric plant’s characteristics and the energy objectives of the same.
Advantages of hydroelectricity
Hydroelectric energy represents a type of power with a low environmental impact and renewable, as it will be possible to exploit it as long as the water is available. Furthermore, once the plants and dams’ construction costs have exceeded, there are no further costs to be faced, since snow and rain guarantee an almost infinite availability of raw materials. Simultaneously, the hydroelectric power plant manages to create a lot of energy in a short time.
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