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MAIN Arrow to Going Green Guides Society Arrow to Going Green Guides Go Green Guides Arrow to Hydroelectric power Hydroelectric Power


An early form of hydro power,
the traditional water mill.

Hydroelectric power is power that is generated by the sheer force that moving water exerts.

The most common method of generating hydroelectricity is dams, although power can also be generated from paddle wheels, waves, sea currents, and any other form of moving water.

Hydroelectric power is actually the most common kind of renewable energy in use, and with good reason.

Even compared to other forms of renewable energy production, hydroelectric power is considered an excellent way to generate power because of its dependable output and low maintenance needs.

Hydroelectricity pros and cons

It is, however, also a somewhat controversial form of renewable energy because it has a very large environmental impact. Altering any sort of water system, like a dam on a river for instance, has an intrusive impact on the surrounding ecosystem, and can change it significantly.

On the other hand, hydroelectric dams are an excellent source of power because once they are built they require no additional fossil fuels to operate, and need very little maintenance to remain operational. In fact, some dams have been generating energy for up to one hundred years, which makes them an excellent renewable power source.

The reservoirs that dams form can also be beneficial in their own right. In dryer countries in the Middle East for example, the reservoirs of dams can become important ecosystems and can be used for farm irrigation as well as aquaculture activities.

Notable hydroelectricity projects

Three Gorges dam, China
Completed in 2012, the Three
Gorges dam on the Yangste River
in China is today the world's largest.

While the Hoover Dam remains as the most notable of US power projects, hydroelectric energy production is also a popular choice in some developing countries. China, in particular, with its powerful rivers and blossoming power needs, is building a huge number of dams (i.e., the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric power station) to help offset the future power requirements of an increasingly power hungry population.

Other countries like Canada also use hydroelectric power extensively. Several Canadian provinces generate a majority of their power from hydro installations, and the province of Quebec is home to the company with the world's largest total hydroelectric power output.

New York City has also joined the "next wave" in hydro power by experimenting with wave turbines deployed within the strong currents of the East River to help generate at least part of its ever-growing energy needs.

More information on hydroelectric power around the Web:

Environmental Literacy Council - Hydroelectric Power - Good intro to the topic with an historical overview, current uses, including suggested reading and related resources.

Hydroelectricity - Wikipedia - Comprehensive look at its history and recent developments including pros, cons and related controversies, notable hydroelectric projects worldwide, with an extensive list of related references and resources.

Hydro Tours - Interactive tour of a hydroelectric power project with information on how hydroelectricity works, a walk through a hydro generator, with related historical timeline and glossary of terms.

Hydro Power - Energy from Moving Water - Kid-friendly page explaining where hydro power comes from, how it works, its effects on the environment, including related illustrations and interactive slideshow.






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