Hydroelectric Generators: Generating Clean Energy from Water Sources


Seeking sustainable energy solutions, the hydroelectric generator provides an ebb and flow of electric current that is a testament to the work of nature. These power stations convert, with the help of gravity, the potential energy of a water source held at a height into kinetic energy.

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Then they transform that kinetic energy into a reliable, steady stream of electricity, without resorting to the burning of traditional fuels. But if we zoom into a power station, what happens inside that makes falling water transform into reliable electric current?

How Hydroelectric Generators Work

  • Creating hydroelectric power is a simple concept. A large amount of water is held at a great height. It is then directed through turbines at high speed. The force of the water spins the turbine blades, which in turn drives a generator. The generator does what it does best: it converts the mechanical energy into electrical “juice” that powers our homes, businesses, and industries across the nation.
  • There exist many kinds of hydroelectric power installations, each boasting a design and use that are unrepeatable in any other.
  • The hydroelectric plants you find around the world are mostly of this type. A dam is built, and a reservoir of water is contained behind it. The water is held at an elevation, and when the potential energy in that water is needed to be converted into electricity, the water is allowed to reenter the river through the intake and through the large penstock pipes. On its way into the river, the water passes through the turbine and the generator, which is where the electricity is made—some of the “cleanest” electricity around, from the standpoint of not emitting greenhouse gasses or any other kinds of air pollution.
  • Run-of-the-river hydroelectric plants don’t need to store a ginormous amount of water to generate electricity. Instead, they wield the river’s current to spin turbines and create power. This is why run-of-the-river power plants are also called power plants “without a dam.” Using the river’s flow to generate electricity is not power from a latent current; it is indeed an active way of creating power. These plants are small and have a relatively low output; yet, they have a clear advantage: when compared with the pound-for-pound electricity generation of large-scale, massive impoundment power plants (like the Hoover Dam), the run-of-the-river electric power generation has a much lower environmental impact.

Benefits of Hydroelectric Generators

  • Producing energy with a hydroelectric generator delivers a number of positive results. In terms of sheer cleanliness, you can’t beat hydroelectric power. … You’ve got a Mongol invasion’s worth of energy in every one of those dams, and each watt is far more sanitary, far less polluting to produce and use, than is a watt derived from almost any other source, bar wind, and sometimes even less polluting than a windmill with an equal number of blades.
  • Renewable and sustainable: hydropower is an energy source that can be renewed, because it can be replaced naturally. Unlike fossil fuels, which, once used up, cannot regenerate within a human lifetime, and often have adverse environmental side effects, such as the release of harmful greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants, hydropower has many advantages for power generation when it comes to being sustainable.
  • Count on It: Weather makes solar and wind power unreliable, but hydropower plants make electricity consistently. As long as rivers flow, the turbines in hydro plants can turn and send power into the electrical grid around the clock. In these and other ways, “hydro” is the prefix of some very good news for a world that’s pushed to the limits of its resources.

Challenges and Considerations

The many benefits of hydroelectric power are clear, but it is also necessary to recognize the associated environmental and societal consequences. These often-underestimated byproducts of erecting a massive wall across a river or valley result not only in the loss of plant and animal habitats that are very difficult, if not impossible, to replace, but also in the upset of delicate ecological balances that have taken eons to establish. Ecologists have noted, for example, that such projects can compromise fish populations by serving as unintended-scale fish hatcheries and then blocking downstream migration. And even if the river’s flow were eventually restored, biologists have had to ask: At what cost in the establishment of new plant and animal communities downstream and their habitats?


The push for a more energy-sustainable and emission-reduced world can certainly count on hydroelectric power plants. The electricity produced by the power of falling or fast-moving water is a huge asset because it is, as far as we can see, almost infinitely renewable. At the same time, the electricity that such a method produces carries none of the unintended by-blows carried by electrons energized in fossil fuel plants. In other words, as long as substantial amounts of water continue to fall from the sky, hydroelectric power plants will emit not a single molecule of carbon dioxide or hardly any of the other greenhouse gasses that are the principal actors on the stage of an Earth that is getting uncomfortably warmer.

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