Hydropower Engineering

Introduction to Hydropower

Hydro has been one of the main sources of power for 500 years and more and blossomed with the invention of the overshot wheel which efficiently converted the power of falling water to useful mechanical energy.
Hydropower converts the natural flow of water into electricity to light our homes and power our industries. The energy is produced by the fall of water turning the blades of a turbine. The turbine is connected to a generator that converts the energy into electricity.

The amount of electricity a hydropower installation can produce depends on the quantity of water passing through a turbine (the volume of water flow) and on the height from which the water falls (the amount of head). The greater the flow and the head, the more electricity produced.

These days, hydropower is used for much more than just power mills. In the 21st century, it is powering the homes of millions of people and helping our civilization move from one that used dirty coal and oil, to one that uses the clean and renewable energy that is all around us.

There were literally thousands of small hydro power stations called water mills. The vast majority of these have now fallen into disuse, but the potential they represent is still there. Small hydro represents a small but secure and reliable source of energy that we should be using as part of our drive to promote renewable energy. However the transaction costs of realizing that potential are high and provide the major stumbling block in making use of this resource in our midst.

There are different types and sizes of hydropower installations in Canada, ranging from micro hydro plants that provide electricity to only a few homes to mega installations.

Some hydropower facilities include dams to increase the head of a waterfall or to control the flow of water, and reservoirs to store the water for future energy use (storage dam), while others produce electricity by immediately using a river's water flow (run-of-river). In some cases, a project can have characteristics of both traditional storage and run-of-river, such is the case with Clint Creek.


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