Hydropower or hydroelectricity refers to the conversion of energy from flowing water into electricity. It is considered a renewable energy source because the water cycle is constantly renewed by the sun. 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.
How It Works
Hydropower works by harnessing the energy that comes from the flow of water through a turbine connected to a generator, thus turning it into electricity. Most hydropower plants store water in a dam, which is controlled by a gate or valve to measure the amount of water that flows out. The greater the elevation of the dam, the more energy can be generated. Just before the water flows over the dam, it gains potential energy, which is converted into kinetic energy as it flows downhill. The water is used to turn a turbine, which is connected to an electric generator that distributes the power to the end users.
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Hydropower is the world’s largest source of renewable energy generation. It generated more than 4,200 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2018, accounting for more than 60% of global renewable energy generation and matching the potential for solar and wind power in several countries. The global weighted average cost of hydropower projects in 2018 was $0.047 per kWh, making it also the lowest-cost source of electricity in many markets (IRENA 2019). When well maintained, hydropower facilities can last for more than 100 years and operate for decades without major work, whereas plants that are allowed to deteriorate require constant attention and frequent major refurbishment. That makes it essential for these facilities to have robust O&M strategies in place, recognizing that implementing such strategies go hand in hand with inherent challenges
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