Hydroelectric Power – what is it?
It’s a form of energy – a renewable resource. Hydropower provides about 96 percent of the renewable energy in the United States. Other renewable resources include geothermal, wave power, tidal power, wind power, and solar power. Hydroelectric power plants do not use up resources to create electricity nor do they pollute the air, land, or water, as other power plants may. Hydroelectric power has played an important part in the development of this Nation’s electric power industry. Both small and large hydroelectric power developments were instrumental in the early expansion of the electric power industry.
Hydroelectric power comes from flowing water. Water, when it is falling by the force of gravity, can be used to turn turbines and generators that produce electricity. Hydroelectric power is important to nation’s power. Growing populations and modern technologies require vast amounts of electricity for creating, building, and expanding. In the 1920’s, hydroelectric plants supplied as much as 40 percent of the electric energy produced. Although the amount of energy produced by this means has steadily increased, the amount produced by other types of power plants has increased at a faster rate and hydroelectric power presently supplies about 10 percent of the electrical generating capacity of the United States. Hydropower is an essential contributor in the national power grid because of its ability to respond quickly to rapidly varying loads or system disturbances, which base load plants with steam systems powered by combustion or nuclear processes cannot accommodate.
Hydroelectric power plants are the most efficient means of producing electric energy. The efficiency of today’s hydroelectric plant is about 90 percent. Hydroelectric plants do not create air pollution, the fuel-falling water-is not consumed, projects have long lives relative to other forms of energy generation, and hydroelectric generators respond quickly to changing system conditions. These favorable characteristics continue to make hydroelectric projects attractive sources of electric power.