Transformation of hydraulic energy
The main application of hydroelectric power today is obtaining electricity. Hydroelectric plants are generally found in regions where there is an appropriate combination of rainfall and favorable geological slopes for the construction of dams. Hydraulic energy is obtained from the potential and kinetic energy of the masses of water transported by rivers from rain and snowmelt. In its fall between two levels of the channel, the water passes through a hydraulic turbine, which transmits the energy to an alternator that converts it into electrical energy.
Another system used is to conduct the water from a stream of great light, through a closed tube, at the base of which there is a turbine. The water is collected in a small dam and the difference in height provides the necessary potential energy. Another is to make a small dam in the river and divert part of the flow through a channel with less inclination than the river, so that a few kilometers later they will have gained a certain difference in level with the channel and will cause the water to fall through a pipe, with a turbine.
It is currently considered one of the most profitable on the market. And although the commissioning of such an installation is more expensive, the maintenance and operating costs are low and the results are particularly favorable. It is essential that a significant level of annual precipitation be available at the site where the renewable energy structure is installed.
Within this type of construction, it should be noted that the turbines have a special emphasis, which can be of several models, especially the propeller, the Pelton or the Kaplan.
Among the main problems posed by the use of dams is the fact that this can lead to the end of the fish fauna that exists in the place where they are located. All this without forgetting that there can be a flood of fertile lands and even the need to evacuate, due to strong floods, the populations that are trapped in the environment.
These plants produce important ecological consequences, such as the flooding of large areas of land (up to entire towns) and the alteration or destruction of aquatic ecosystems. In this case, therefore, it cannot be said that hydropower is environmentally friendly.
How do hydroelectric plants work?
Hydroelectric plants must be located in a natural waterfall.
Hydroelectric plants are the best known case for the use of hydroelectric energy, in this case the generation of electricity. This is achieved by locating the plant in one of the natural groundwater, in the river bed or, if it is not the required height, by building a hydroelectric dam.
The logic of these sites is the water of the gravitational tap potential or the intensity of the energy current to make the liquid move a hydraulic turbine constantly, thus generating new energy that is then transmitted to an alternator for electricity.
This electrical energy can be transmitted through the network to homes and businesses that need it.
Advantages of hydropower
Hydraulic power has the following virtues:
- It is renewable, because it does not waste river water, nor does it affect its drying.
- Given the abundance of water on the planet, this energy is cheap and easy to obtain. Of course, there are the installation costs of the hydroelectric plants, but this only counts as an initial investment.
- It is a form of clean energy, because it does not produce polluting substances, since there are no combustion processes or raw materials.
- It ends up being economical in the long term, since it does not depend on the entry of raw material or the fluctuations of its market.
Disadvantages of hydropower
The construction of a dam has important environmental consequences, since it influences the course of a river and floods an area of land, which produces effects on flora and fauna. On the other hand, when the dams open and close there are effects on the fish and on the river ecosystem.
High cost of a hydroelectric plant:
The construction of a hydroelectric plant involves a high cost, although once built its maintenance is simple and cheaper.
It depends on the environmental conditions:
The existence of rains will affect energy production, so droughts reduce the amount of water stored and the amount of electricity that can be produced.
A dam cannot be built anywhere:
The characteristics of the terrain and the height of the dam are essential for a hydroelectric plant to be installed.
Importance of hydropower
This form of energy is fundamental in the development of sustainable and ecological forms to satisfy the increasing demand for energy in the post-industrial world.
The burning of fossil fuels is very polluting, nuclear energy involves many dangers and the other forms are not efficient enough. Hydropower and other forms of renewable electricity are increasingly seen as a necessary option in the future world.
Examples of the use of hydraulic energy
Hydraulic mills, which are pushed through the bed of a river, are used to transform a piston and a millstone into it, with which crushing, seeds, wheat, etc. are ground or crushed. This same principle was used with the force of the wind.
Hydroelectric energy, such as the Simón Bolívar Hydroelectric Plant in Venezuela, also called the Guri Dam, which takes advantage of the flow of the Caroní River, a tributary of the Orinoco, to generate 10,235 MW of electricity that supply power plants throughout the country.