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The cost of hydroelectricity is relatively low, making it a competitive source of renewable electricity. The hydro station consumes no water, unlike coal or gas plants. The average cost of electricity from a hydro station larger than 10 megawatts is 3 to 5 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour. With a dam and reservoir it is also a flexible source of electricity since the amount produced by the station can be varied up or down very rapidly (as little as a few seconds) to adapt to changing energy demands. Once a hydroelectric complex is constructed, the project produces no direct waste, and in many cases, has a considerably lower output level of greenhouse gases than fossil fuel powered energy plants.

Hydroelectric power stations continued to become larger throughout the 20th century. Hydropower was referred to as white coal for its power and plenty. Hoover Dam's initial 1,345 MW power station was the world's largest hydroelectric power station in 1936; it was eclipsed by the 6809 MW Grand Coulee Dam in 1942. The Itaipu Dam opened in 1984 in South America as the largest, producing 14,000 MW but was surpassed in 2008 by the Three Gorges Dam in China at 22,500 MW. Hydroelectricity would eventually supply some countries, including Norway, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Paraguay and Brazil, with over 85% of their electricity. The United States currently has over 2,000 hydroelectric power stations that supply 6.4% of its total electrical production output, which is 49% of its renewable electricity.
Run-of-the-river hydroelectric stations are those with small or no reservoir capacity, so that only the water coming from upstream is available for generation at that moment, and any oversupply must pass unused. A constant supply of water from a lake or existing reservoir upstream is a significant advantage in choosing sites for run-of-the-river. In the United States, run of the river hydropower could potentially provide 60,000 megawatts (80,000,000 hp) (about 13.7% of total use in 2011 if continuously available).
Small hydro stations may be connected to conventional electrical distribution networks as a source of low-cost renewable energy. Alternatively, small hydro projects may be built in isolated areas that would be uneconomic to serve from a network, or in areas where there is no national electrical distribution network. Since small hydro projects usually have minimal reservoirs and civil construction work, they are seen as having a relatively low environmental impact compared to large hydro. This decreased environmental impact depends strongly on the balance between stream flow and power production.
An underground power station is generally used at large facilities and makes use of a large natural height difference between two waterways, such as a waterfall or mountain lake. An underground tunnel is constructed to take water from the high reservoir to the generating hall built in an underground cavern near the lowest point of the water tunnel and a horizontal tailrace taking water away to the lower outlet waterway.
The major advantage of conventional hydroelectric dams with reservoirs is their ability to store water at low cost for dispatch later as high value clean electricity. The average cost of electricity from a hydro station larger than 10 megawatts is 3 to 5 U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour. When used as peak power to meet demand, hydroelectricity has a higher value than base power and a much higher value compared to intermittent energy sources.
Reservoirs created by hydroelectric schemes often provide facilities for water sports, and become tourist attractions themselves. In some countries, aquaculture in reservoirs is common. Multi-use dams installed for irrigation support agriculture with a relatively constant water supply. Large hydro dams can control floods, which would otherwise affect people living downstream of the project.
Hydroelectric projects can be disruptive to surrounding aquatic ecosystems both upstream and downstream of the plant site. Generation of hydroelectric power changes the downstream river environment. Water exiting a turbine usually contains very little suspended sediment, which can lead to scouring of river beds and loss of riverbanks. Since turbine gates are often opened intermittently, rapid or even daily fluctuations in river flow are observed.
However, nuclear power is relatively inflexible; although nuclear power can reduce its output reasonably quickly. Since the cost of nuclear power is dominated by its high infrastructure costs, the cost per unit energy goes up significantly with low production. Because of this, nuclear power is mostly used for baseload. By way of contrast, hydroelectricity can supply peak power at much lower cost. Hydroelectricity is thus often used to complement nuclear or other sources for load following. Country examples were they are paired in a close to 50/50 share include the electric grid in Switzerland, the Electricity sector in Sweden and to a lesser extent, Ukraine and the Electricity sector in Finland.







Member of IWOCE RC PBC 2019:


Roberto Di Cosmo

Definitions of different ecosystems

Research Proposal

Software Component Definition

History alternative energy

Enabling  technologies

Renewable energy vs non-renewable energy

Relatively new concepts for alternative energy

Research alternative energy

Disadvantages alternative energy