The source of hydropower energy is water which has covered 71% of the earth’s surface. Hydropower energy is the major source of clean energy that doesn’t emit greenhouse gases.

The use of electricity is abundant in today’s generations for factories and many industries. But at the same time, it’s the reason for natural calamities like floods and landslides.

Both the advantages and disadvantages of hydropower are important and need to be observed closely for positive results and outcomes.

Hydropower

 Hydropower is also known as aqua power or water power, allowing fast running or flowing water to generate electricity. With the help of kinetic energy, the fast running water produces electricity to power machines.

Hydropower is one of the crucial sustainable sources of energy worldwide. Most hydropower energy comes from the dammed water driving a water turbine and generator for electricity.

Kinetic energy is the type of energy that states the energy of an object that it possesses due to the motion of that particular object. Hydropower energy releases an enormous amount of energy through its flowing water.

Another method of generation of hydropower energy is through the penstock that delivers water from the reservoir to the turbine. China is one of the world’s largest countries that leads the world in hydroelectricity usage.

Hydropower Facts

Hydropower is the most sustainable and easily available resource of renewable energy. Here are some facts about hydropower listed below.

  1. Hydropower is the cleanest source of electricity, with low greenhouse gas emissions compared to other energy source.
  2. The use of hydroelectricity has avoided the production of 100 billion tonnes of CO2 in the past 50 years.
  3. China, Brazil, the USA, Canada, and India are among the largest hydropower producers by installed capacity.
  4. The hydropower plant that generates more electricity annually is the Itaipu plant situated in the Parana River, between Brazil and Paraguay.
  5. The world’s largest hydropower plant in accordance with installed capacity is Three Georges(Sanxia) on China’s Yangtze River.
  6. Hydropower plants are able to cope with sudden changes when demand increases from zero power to maximum power.
  7. 60 percent of all renewable electricity is generated by hydropower and 16 percent of total electricity generation from all sources.
  8. Dams are built not only for electricity but for various purposes like irrigation, shipping, flood control, or creating reservoirs for recreational activities.
  9. The hydropower industry has employed around 2 million people worldwide according to IRENA.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Hydropower

Extracting electricity from water is beneficial for the country and its people economically. The government can sell the electricity to get the revenue invested.

On the other hand, the unmanaged and random plantation might hamper the environment and villages dependent on the particular water source.

advantages and disadvantages of hydropower
source: canva

Hydropower must be implemented in favor of the environment and eliminate the risk factors to balance the advantages and disadvantages of hydropower.

Advantages of Hydropower

The advantages of hydropower include its abundant source and the conversion of electricity with minimal power loss.

The execution of the well-organized plant produces enough electricity to light the city and collect the revenue by selling. Here are some advantages of hydroelectricity mentioned below.

1. Renewable source

Since we all know water is an endless cycle, it recharges the system constantly. When the free-flowing water gets captured and utilized to generate electricity, it is known as hydropower. Mostly, hydropower projects less than 25 MW are known as renewable energy.

Whether the hydropower project is large or small in size or stored or free-flowing, all these fit the renewable source of the energy concept.

2. Contributes storage of drinking water

The rainwater is collected in big reservoirs at hydropower plants which can be used for drinking purposes. These reservoirs provided water for irrigation and daily consumption purpose.

advantages and disadvantages of hydropower
source: Xiaolong Wong

Effective storing of water can also lead to reducing cases of wildfires. Also, the abundance of water reservoirs can create stability in the water supply to the local areas. 

Compared to other energy sources, river water doesn’t have market fluctuations. They protect water tables against depletion and reduce vulnerability towards floods and droughts for farmers.

3. Maximum output immediately

Some hydropower can generate maximum output from zero levels. It generates power to grind immediately and provides necessary backup power during electricity disruptions. 

Hydropower is also known as a sustainable fuel source with several benefits of flood control, irrigation, and an abundance of water supply.

4. Low emissions

Hydropower is fueled by water and is a clean source of energy. It helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions resulting from burning coal and natural gas plants.

There is zero chance of oil spills or gas pipes breaking because the only fuel used to support hydropower plants is water.

5. Adjustable

Hydropower plants are adjustable and flexible to operate. Engineers adjust the flow of water for the power plant, allowing the plant to generate more energy when necessary and reduce the capacity when there is no need.

It is also known as a flexible source of energy. Also, hydropower is the domestic energy source that allows every state or local community to produce electricity without relying on other fuel sources.

6. Superior energy performance

The energy losses during the electricity generation process are very minimal. When compared to the transformation of fossil fuels, oil, natural gas, and coal, it usually leads to substantial energy loss in the form of heat energy.

When coal gets burned to generate power, almost two-thirds of its energy is wasted. On the other hand, a few drops of water can help push against the turbine’s blades.

These advantages of hydropower save energy and the cost for the long term production. Hydropower energy is very reliable and feasible from every aspect.

7. Quebec is a wealthy city because of hydropower

Quebec, a city in Canada, is one of the wealthy cities related to water resources. There are more than 1 million lakes and streams in Quebec city. 

Quebec has numerous opportunities for hydropower projects. Almost 40% of the electricity of Canada gets supplied from Quebec city. They have natural lakes and water reservoirs covering about 20% of their territory.

Disadvantages of Hydropower

Hydropower plants may not emit any greenhouse gases but can directly impact the environment. The dam created for the collection of water is diverted from the regular stream, which may cause drought in the area around the creek.

1. Environmental impacts

Even though hydropower doesn’t pollute the environment and has a great side at its pros, there are still some cons. Hydropower disturbs the natural habitat of the locals, animals around, and the land resulting in soil erosion.

Reservoirs can cover most local areas and people’s homes, agricultural land, and archaeological sites. Also, a reduction in the downstream water flow can cause loss of habitat of people living around.

advantages and disadvantages of hydropower
source: canva

Usually, hydropower plants cause upstream flooding that will likely destroy the wildlife areas, scenic, and prime farming lands. It can create a loss of fish habitat and cause entrapment of fish.

2. High cost

A hydropower plant requires lots of money to be complete and start to operate. These huge projects can be handled only by the government or large organizations with huge cash flow.

The hydroelectric power plant is costly because of the logistical challenges like topography, materials used, and laying foundations underwater. 

However, after the construction of the plant, it requires low maintenance. Also, it needs to operate for a long time to recover the initial investment outlay.

3. May cause conflicts

Countries with abundant water flowing rivers construct dams and reservoirs to harness the water. Reserved water gets used to generate electricity. 

But unplanned site construction neglecting the side-effects can cause the drought problem for the people depending on the river diverted towards the reservoir.

If water is not necessary to a specific area, the hydropower plant channels the flowing water to other regions. But, if the situation gets reversed, there might be conflict among the locals.

4. Risk of flood

Communities that are present downstream are always prone to flood. There is a high chance of flooding from reservoirs with a high current that can damage the whole surrounding. Hence, the livelihood of people around the particular area gets destroyed.

The high-cost implementation and the environmental impact are the major drawbacks of hydropower but can improve the economic stability of the country and the lifestyle of the people.

Hydropower is the most favored renewable source of energy after solar and wind power that is regarded as the best alternative source of electricity.

(Last Updated On: June 1, 2022)