Hydropower plants are a form of renewable energy. They operate using stored water in a dam; the waterfalls by gravity through penstocks to water turbines located below the dam. There are various types of water turbines used to drive power generators, producing electricity for the National Grid.
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Water power has been used for centuries as a means of operating water wheels for various purposes. Hydropower is one such use of water and this has been in existence since the 1890’s. Hydropower is considered as renewable energy, produced from a natural resource of water with zero CO2 emissions during operation.
It produces electricity by using a stored supply of water from a reservoir, which runs down large bore pipes known as penstocks, into water turbines located below the reservoir. These turbines drive power generators supplying electricity to the national grid.
This is an article on my series on electrical power generation from renewable sources. We shall have a look at the construction of the dam, and examine the supply of water to turbines and pumped storage systems.
So we start therefore by the factors which influence a suitable location and construction of the dam.
The Hydropower Dam
There two essential conditions to be met before the location of a reservoir is confirmed. The first one is to have an adequate supply of water, usually from a river of high volume flowing through a mountain valley. The second one is the difference in height between the dam outfall and the turbine inlet in the valley below the reservoir.
An Environmental Impact Statement is a mandatory requirement; carried out to ensure the impact on the area takes the environment and the indigenous people into consideration.
Once the EIS has been passed and these conditions established the construction of the dam can commence.
This is the longest period in the hydropower plant construction phase and requires large amounts of stone filling and, steel reinforced concrete.
When constructed, it can be expected to supply water to the turbines for up to a hundred years, some hydro plants being in operation since 1900 here near my home in Scotland. As the dam wall progresses, apertures are left in the walls for the water outfalls to the penstocks. Large steel gratings are installed in front of these outfalls to catch major debris brought down by the river.
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