About Hydropower

Water is another very important energy resource. People, plants, and animals all depend on water. Hydropower is energy that comes from the force of moving water. The word "hydro" means water.

Hydropower is the most widely used renewable source of energy. The sun heats the oceans, turning it into water vapor. This is called evaporation. When the water vapor rises, it turns into clouds. The cold air above the earth mixes with the clouds and releases rain or snow, called precipitation. This water cycle goes on repeating forever, making this a renewable energy source.

Hydropower is also a clean source of energy and the cheapest form of energy. There is no fuel to burn, so there are no harmful emissions released into the air. These reservoirs can also offer recreational areas for swimming, boating, and fishing.

History of Hydropower

Since ancient times people have found ways to harness the energy produced by moving water. Rain or melted snow from hills and mountain areas create moving streams and rivers of water.

For example, the water wheel was first used around 200 B.C. for tasks like grinding grain and irrigation. Over 2,000 years ago the Greeks used water as an energy source to turn water wheels for grinding wheat into flour. The running water would flow over the wheel into buckets attached to the wheel and force the wheel to turn. In the early 1800s, Americans and Europeans used water wheels in factories to power machines like saws in lumber mills.

By harnessing that energy, hydropower is used to generate electricity. After the invention of the turbine in the early 1800s and the generator in the late 1800s, the first hydroelectric plant in the U.S. was built at Niagara Falls in 1879. Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power & Manufacturing Company was an American company, based in Niagara Falls, New York, that was the first company to generate hydroelectric power from Niagara Falls in 1882. Niagara Falls borders New York and Canada.

Gravity causes the water from a reservoir on high ground to fall to the lower ground over the dam into another reservoir. The energy force from the falling water is used to turn a turbine in the dam and generate electricity.

Hydropower represents about 17% of the total electricity production in the world. China is the largest producer, followed by Canada, Brazil, and the United States, according the EIA, Energy Information Administration.