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Hydroelectricity Facts

Hydroelectricity is a clean, renewable and highly efficient source of power. It is generated in hydroelectric power facilities across the globe and has helped to provide a source of cheap electricity for many different countries. This article provides some interesting information on hydropower along with various hydroelectricity facts.

General Facts About Hydroelectricity

Below you’ll find some general facts associated with hydroelectricity:

  • Hydropower is the world’s leading renewable energy source by far. Electricity production from hydropower is far greater than that of solar, wind and geothermal energy sources.
  • Hydroelectricity is generated by harnessing the kinetic energy in flowing water. This can be from a fast flowing stream or from water stored in a reservoir and then released.
  • Lester Allan Pelton is considered to be the founding father of hydroelectricity. Pelton was born in Ohio, USA in 1829 and first patented his “Pelton Wheel” in 1880.
  • The design of modern hydroelectric turbines such as the Turgo and Banki turbines has been inspired by the Pelton Wheel.
  • Most hydroelectric facilities make use of a dam to store a water supply that can be called upon as and when needed, but others can be located in the vicinity of a fast flowing stream or river to utilise its natural kinetic energy.
  • The largest hydroelectric facility in the world is the Three Gorges Dam in China which has an installed capacity of 22,500 MW (22.5 GW) as at 2012.
  • Modern hydroelectric turbines have a very high efficiency rate and are able to convert as much as 90% of the kinetic energy contained in flowing water into electricity.
  • Hydroelectricity has a quick reaction time and therefore is suited to meeting spikes in electricity demand. In the UK, it is common for power companies to release volumes of water into a hydroelectric facility shortly before the advert breaks of highly popular television shows to meet the spike in electricity demand as large volumes of people go to put the kettle on at once.
  • Hydropower is free (after construction and operating costs) and can aid a countries economy by making it less vulnerable to fluctuations in the price of oil, coal and gas.

Hydroelectricity – Production Facts

These facts relate to the production of hydroelectricity and some feature various figures obtained from BP’s statistical review of world energy 2014 which provides figures for world energy consumption in 2013:

  • More electricity is produced from hydropower than all of the other renewable energy technologies put together.
  • In 2013, hydroelectricity consumption was 3782 TWh.
  • Globally, in 2013, hydropower generated more electricity than nuclear power with the consumption of nuclear power being only 2489 TWh.
  • China produces the most hydroelectricity and generated 911.6 TWh in 2013, shadowing second place Brazil who generated a still impressive 385.4 TWh of hydroelectricity.
  • The Asia-Pacific region generated the most hydroelectricity in 2013 at 1364.3 TWh with the vast majority of this coming from China.
  • A small group of countries such as Brazil, Norway and Paraguay manage to produce the vast majority of their electricity demands from hydroelectricity.

Hydroelectricity – Environmental Facts

Hydroelectric facilities have various environmental impacts, both good and bad. Below you’ll find some facts on the environmental impacts of hydroelectricity:

  • Hydroelectricity has no direct CO2 emissions apart from any that are released during the construction of hydroelectric facilities. There is however some concern over the release of methane from the water of man-made hydroelectric dams (caused by rotting vegetation as a result of flooding land to form the dam).
  • Globally, the use of hydroelectricity prevented the equivalent of 855.8 million tonnes of oil from being consumed in 2013 according to BP’s statistical review of world energy 2014.
  • Hydroelectric dams have various impacts on the ecosystem of a river and can issues locally, upstream and downstream.