by Ron Douglas
powerful form of alternative energy!.
Hydropower is the name given to the power found in water. It can create much more energy at one time than either solar power or wind power. This is due to the fact that water is so dense.
Therefore it only takes a little bit of water to create some power. It takes much more sunlight or wind to create that same amount. Hydropower is used to offer electricity to more than 28 million people around the world. It accounts for approximately 10% of all the electricity produced in the United States.
The process involves plenty of safety precautions as the water can never come into contact with the electrical part of the process. We all know that can spell disaster. The process occurs as the water flows and it spins turbines that are found in a generator.
While this process isn’t new, it has been upgraded since it was first used thousands of years ago. The Egyptians were a very smart society and they were able to use it to grind down their grains. It was also used as a way to saw wood as it kept the blades cool enough.
The first hydro power plant in the United States was introduced in 1882. It was placed in Wisconsin. Most people don’t realize that a great deal of the early electricity and power in the United States once came from such hydropower plants. In 1940 approximately half of the electricity used came from this source. Later it was replaced by the use of coal.
Of course that was before we knew that coal was something that we will one day run out of. We didn’t realize at that time just how much of it we were going to be using. We also didn’t realize how much it was going to pollute our environment. It seems ironic that to move forward we have to go back but that is how it plays out in this particular case.
There are several dams in the United States where elaborate designs are in place. Here huge volumes of power are generated each day using these methods. It is a very time consuming and complex process though to turn water into energy. Since hydropower is so expensive it isn’t as widely used as it could be.
The largest hydropower plant in the world is located in Washington along the Grand Coulee Dam. It took 11 years to build it from 1933 to 1942. Since that time it has undergone numerous facelifts and changes. It is amazing at a size of over 5,000 feet long and 550 feet high.
In all there are four distinct power plants found here. Each one is controlled separately for easier control of the process to make energy. There are 33 generators and more that 2 million homes in that area get their energy from this particular location. It is an amazing accomplishment and one that really shows the power that can be created with such a renewable energy source.
Some of the newer approaches for hydropower include generating that power from the waves in the ocean. Even the waves that occur all day long in the waters there can be used to create energy. It is believed that the use of hydropower will one day be much more significant than it is right now.
Of course it doesn’t make sense for hydropower to be used everywhere. There are many places where there just isn’t enough water flowing in the area for them to work well. Not every place as an abundance of rivers, streams, and oceans to produce hydropower. Most of them are found along the West of the United States. They are in Oregon, Washington, and California.
If a way to convert that energy from the water can be found that is less expensive than what we know right now it surely will. It only makes sense due to the volumes of energy that can be created from this particular natural resource. It also doesn’t reduce the amount of water out there or place any type of harmful contaminants into it.
There is research though that indicates the aquatic live forms in the waters may be affected by the process. It can upset the natural balance of what ordinarily goes on in that water. There is also the risk of terrorism in an event to destroy what we have built.
Since the events of 09/11 tighter security efforts have been implemented in order to prevent that from happening. There are random checkpoints and stops along the way where vehicles are inspected. There are also restrictions at places including Hoover Dam that prevent large trucks and buses from going across them as an additional safety precaution.
It can take years to build the dams for a hydroelectric plant to start operating though. Many people who live in the vicinity of a proposed hydroelectric plant aren’t happy about it either. They worry about flooding and they often find their homeowner’s insurance goes up due to that possibility.