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Hydro Power – How We Harness The Power Of Water

Using the water’s power is an age-old phenomenon. Over the years it has been employed for irrigation and working a variety of machines, including water-wheels. But today, it is used more importantly as a alternative energy source.

Nowadays hydro-power is generated in 3 different ways: hydroelectric power, tidal power, and wave power.

Hydroelectric dams:

This form of hydro power accounts for over 90% of all renewable energy generated. Power is generated in large dams, where water is forced through large turbines.

What makes hydro-electric dams so popular is that they have two very important roles – to store and distribute water to various cities, and generate thousands of megawatts of electricity at the same time.

The disadvantage is the devastating effect dams can have on plants, animals and even humans. When dams are built they flood large tracts of land that were once occupied by various species and communities of people. Furthermore, the water-borne animals, such as fish can also be affected. An example would be salmon that are blocked from swimming upstream to spawn by the newly erected dam.

Tidal Energy:

The second most popular type of hydro power, tidal energy is produced by currents caused from the natural ebb and flow of the tide.

France and Russia have successfully used tidal power since 1966. One system is used in large bays and estuaries where water from the high tide is dammed up and diverted through turbines at low tide.

The only drawback with using such a system is that it only operates as the tide turns, which is every 6 hours.

The latest tidal power system operates where large windmill-type turbines are placed in shallow water, and spin slowly as the tide comes in and goes out.

Since this system is an underwater version of a wind turbine, the technology is up to date and refined. Also, water has a high density than air, so the turbines can spin in the lightest of currents.

The disadvantage with this tidal power system is that it can only operate in shallow area. This is usually where other economic activities, such as oyster farming, take place, and also where marine life thrives.

Wave Power:

Harnessing the power of the waves is the newest type of hydro-power. The system works where surface waves, are used to displace air, which is then compressed and release through turbines, that then spins to make electricity. Two type currently exist – the first is built along the shore-line, where waves constantly break, and the second is built on floating devices in the deep oceans.

The good thing about using the ocean’s waves is that they have the equivalent kinetic energy of 2 million kilowatts of electricity.

But, like any renewable energy system, there are environmental implications. These systems can damage the various corals and other ocean species along our coastlines. And the hydraulic fluid used could cause major water pollution if it ever leaked out into the sea.

Closing thought:

Man has developed innovative techniques to harness the power of water to produce electricity. But, like most renewable energy solutions there will always be social and environmental impacts.

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