Hydropower

Hydropower is the use of falling or fast-running water to produce electricity or to power machines. This is achieved by converting the gravitational potential or kinetic energy of a water source to produce power.

©STUDENTENERGY

Since ancient times, hydropower from watermills has been used as a renewable energy source for irrigation and the operation of mechanical devices, such as gristmills, sawmills, textile mills, trip hammers, dock cranes, domestic lifts, and ore mills.

In the 19th century, French engineer Benoit Fourneyron developed the first hydropower turbine. This device was implemented in the commercial plant of Niagara Falls in 1895 and it is still operating.

The growing demand for the Industrial Revolution would drive development as well. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, water was the main power source for new inventions such as Richard Arkwright’s water frame.

Technological advances moved the open water wheel into an enclosed turbine or water motor. In 1848, the British-American engineer James B. Francis, head engineer of Lowell’s Locks and Canals company, improved on these designs to create a turbine with 90% efficiency.

He applied scientific principles and testing methods to the problem of turbine design. His mathematical and graphical calculation methods allowed the confident design of high-efficiency turbines to exactly match a site’s specific flow conditions.

Hydropower is now used principally for hydroelectric power generation, and is also applied as one half of an energy storage system known as pumped-storage hydroelectricity.

Hydropower is an attractive alternative to fossil fuels as it does not directly produce carbon dioxide or other atmospheric pollutants and it provides a relatively consistent source of power. Nonetheless, it has economic, sociological, and environmental downsides and requires a sufficiently energetic source of water, such as a river or elevated lake.

Some disadvantages of hydropower have been identified. People who live near a hydro plant site are displaced during construction or when reservoir banks become unstable. Another potential disadvantage is cultural or religious sites may block construction.

©ECOWATCH

Rain has been referred to as “one of the last unexploited energy sources in nature. When it rains, billions of litres of water can fall, which have enormous electric potential if used in the right way.”

Research is being done into the different methods of generating power from rain, such as by using the energy in the impact of raindrops. This is in its very early stages with new and emerging technologies being tested, prototyped and created. Such power has been called rain power.

One method in which this has been attempted is by using hybrid solar panels called “all-weather solar panels” that can generate electricity from both the sun and the rain.

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