Hydropower and Its Environmental Impact


The future of the world’s energy supply looks set to shift significantly over the coming decades. Retailers like RS Americas have made a marked and noticeable shift toward supporting sustainable technologies. Governments and businesses are looking to transition away from traditional fossil-fuel-based sources of energy, and toward sustainable ones. Among the more promising components of the latter is hydropower, which makes use of naturally flowing water to drive turbines, rather than burned oil, coal and gas.


Clean and Renewable Energy

Hydropower works via a simple principle. A body of water that is already in motion can be used to provide energy. Water that flows downhill as part of a river might be used to drive turbines, which in turn powers a generator.

Like most forms of energy, hydropower is derived indirectly from the sun. The sun heats the ocean, creating vapor which condenses in mountainous regions. Gravity does the rest of the work, drawing the water back down to where it came from. By strategically placing turbines along the way, we can harness a portion of this energy.

This method is vastly less polluting than the equivalent fossil-fuel-based power plants. Thus, the use of them can help us to slash our emissions collectively.

Water Conservation

Hydropower comes with drawbacks. It can prevent fish from migrating from one end of a river to the other. It might also interfere with the chemistry, flow, and silt loads in the river. On top of this, we must consider the impact that a large reservoir might have on the surrounding landscape. 

The migration problem can be mitigated with the aid of special technologies like fish ladders, and specialized elevators which allow fish to move from one side of the dam to the other. 

Reduced Air Pollution

Compared with traditional sources of energy, hydropower produces vastly less air pollution. Since nothing is burned, no smoke is generated. This helps us drive up the quality of air in the vicinity and reduce overall morbidity from respiratory issues. On the other hand, we should still consider the fact that large steel turbines and concrete dams impose a not-inconsiderable environmental cost, and this cost should be weighed, too.

Water Turbines, Energy Conversion, and other New Technologies

A hydroelectric plant is only as efficient as the turbines that it relies upon. More recent designs have allowed for greater efficiency. They have also allowed for many environmental side effects to be mitigated. Modern aerating turbines can be used to churn the water in a reservoir, ensuring a consistent level of oxygen. This, alongside multi-level tanks which draw from every level of the reservoir, can help to minimize impacts on aquatic life further down the river. 

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