Hydroelectricity, an opportunity or an obstacle?

Hydroelectricity hype created is real or a bubble?

Hydroelectricity, electricity produced from water, is considered a leading source of renewable and sustainable energy for electricity production in upcoming times. Hydropower is generating about 20% of the electricity all around the world currently. Nearly 30 countries are using water to produce electricity, which is economical, renewable, and reliable, as we can predict the rain all the way through the year. Electricity produce from hydropower counts about 3427 terawatt-hours in 2010 and is expected to rise 3.1% annually for the upcoming 25 years. The chart is given below to illustrate the hydroelectric generating countries worldwide. 

concrete structure of hydro power station
Hydro power

You will be stunned to know that approximately two thousand years back, the people of Greece used hydropower to flour the wheat. In the 1700s the hydropower was used widely for milling and agriculture. Did you know that the first-ever hydropower plant was set up in 1881, located at Niagara? By the time in the 1900s more or less 40% of electricity in the US started to be generated through the mean of hydropower. The trend of using water to produce energy is for centuries, considering it a domestic fuel. A huge amount of water is needed to generate electricity, that is, 18 gallons of water is required to produce a single kWh.

If you are here to get acknowledged for what hydroelectric power is, along with some interesting information around how it is changing the environment, then you are at the exact place you needed to be.


Hydroelectricity, also called hydroelectric power, is primarily referring to the electricity produced from hydropower, water. The electrical energy production is caused by using forces for instance gravity or flowing water. The source of hydroelectricity is chiefly the dams, having proper mechanisms invented to capture energy from the flowing water.

The query that comes to each and everyone’s mind is how these dams generate electricity? The answer is very simple; the hydraulic turbines convert the flowing water kinetic energy to mechanical energy which is then converted to electric energy through the generators. The source here to run turbines is simply water. Summarizing it, wheels transform the water into electricity through generators. 


The Hydroelectric plant is designed and constructed mainly to satisfy the demand for electricity. Today, with the advancement in technology many types of hydroelectric power plants have been introduced to the field, facilitating the production of electricity with minimum cost.

Conventional hydroelectric power plants throughout the globe have quite a few types. Let’s talk about the three common plants use today.

  1. An impoundment, a most common type of hydropower facility, requires a dam to manage the flow of water deposited in the tank or reservoir. When energy is desired, water is released from a dam which begins to flow resisting gravity and make turbines spin. Kinetic energy from moving turbines enable generators to move, thus manufacturing electricity.
  2. Another type of hydroelectric plant that specifically doesn’t necessitate a dam is a diversion facility, which can also be referred to as run-of-river. It lacks a proper storage system. As an alternative, it uses canals providing a proper passage to the flowing water towards the electricity generators. Presently, these hydroelectric plants attract countries more as it shrinks the expenses of developing a dam.  
  3. One more type of hydroelectric power plant is pumped storage. It stores electricity, identical to a battery, from the power source that is water. It is designed with two reservoirs on different altitudes, providing a facility to store. When the demand for electricity is low, the pumped facility stores energy by pumping water from the lower water pool to the higher. In the same way when the demand is high water is pumped back to the lower water pool, enable turbines to move, generating electricity.

Hydroelectric power plants are also classified by their sizes, that is large hydropower plants and small hydropower plants.

  1. Large-scale hydroelectric power plants as the name defines are large set up that can produce 100MW or more electricity. It is more sophisticated than small-scale plants.
  2. Small-scale hydroelectric power plants are designed with the capacity to generate 10MW or even less.


Globally, almost 62,500 power plants are running these days. China, the largest hydroelectricity producer globally, has 3 of the 10 major hydroelectric power plants.

  1. Three gorges, the biggest hydroelectricity plant is located in Yichang, China. China Three Gorges Corporation has its possession. This dam has the capability of producing 22.5GW of electricity. It constitutes 3 turbines with a capacity of 700MW each. The deviation in-season availability of water in the river Yangtze limits electricity production.
  2. Itaipu hydroelectric power plant, sited at river Parana which is a border between Brazil and Paraguay, has a generating capacity of approximately 14GW. It delivers 15% of brazil electric power and 90% of Paraguay electricity. It comprises 20 electricity-generating turbines producing 700MW each.
  3. The third-ranking hydroelectric power plant is the Xiluodu dam, built on the Jinsha River in Sichuan and Yunnan province, China. It has 18 generators with the ability to produce 770MW each and 13.87GW hydroelectric power in total. It is the first double-curvature arch dam and the second largest plant in China.
  4. Guri hydropower plant, the so-called Simón Bolívar hydroelectric power station, has the capability to produce 10.2GW. It has 20 turbines with generating capacity ranging from 130MW to 770MW. It is set up on the river Caroni, Venezuela. The plant has the capacity to produce roughly 50,000 GW/h annually.
  5. Belo Monte, in the past, was known as Kararaô, is positioned at Xingu river in the state of Para, Brazil. It has a capacity to generate electricity of about 9.39GW and aimed to generate 11.2GW in 2020, after which it will be the world’s fourth-biggest plant. In November 2019, the 18th turbine was positioned which make it the second major hydroelectric power plant in Brazil with an installed capacity of 11.2GW.
  6. Tucurui Dam, a concrete gravity dam, situated on the Tocantins River in Tucuruí, Pará, Brazil. It has an installed capacity to generate 8.37GW electricity. Its function along with hydroelectric power production is to navigate. It ranked number 1 to be an extensive plant in the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest.
  7. Grand Coulee hydroelectric power plant is set up on Columbia river, in Washington, US. An overall of 18 hydroelectricity generating turbines is installed with a capacity of 125MW and sum up the power of producing 6.8GW. This dam consists of 3 power plants accompanied by a concrete gravity dam. 
  8. Xiangjiaba hydroelectric power plant is built on river Jinsha, southwest China. It has the ability to generate 6.4GW in total. It is the third biggest power plant in China. 


Hydroelectricity is derived from water, which doesn’t reduce its quantity. Researchers proposed one of the benefits of hydropower is it to be a 100% renewable energy source, dissimilar to natural gas and coal. When the other sources are absent, it can easily meet the demand. It can easily be produced every time required as it has a 24/7 flow. The water used in the whole process doesn’t reduce or lost and can be efficiently recycled repeatedly. In fact, the waste product is nothing but water. As a source water cycle runs efficiently with rain annually. In recent times, the demand for electric power is gradually increasing. The economic and environmental advantages of hydropower are leading it to the chief contributor to electricity production in the very near future. Solar power, which is also a cost-efficient source of renewable energy but lacks consistency in contrast to hydropower. Considering hydropower as an energy source will also ease the drawbacks of fossil fuels and reduce environmental pollution.



  • Hydropower, being a clean energy resource using water as a fuel, saves about 22 billion gallons of oil and 120-million-ton coal burning. It doesn’t generate harmful greenhouse gases because they don’t utilize fossil fuel alike other plants. The essential advantage to notice is it doesn’t leave any waste product. By-products released from the production of hydroelectricity are harmless and non-toxic, leaving the air clean to breathe for species.
  • Electricity generated through hydropower stable the cost. Water is the national resource unlike fuel, coal, and natural gas, whose price fluctuates with time. Dams, constructed once, can be a source of electricity generation for decades with a constant production rate with minimum maintaining cost. Averagely hydroelectricity takes about 0.85 cents per kilowatt to produce.
  • Hydropower is considered the most competent way to generate electricity since it produces more or less 90% of electricity for the energy available. Thus, could be categories as one of the significant renewable energy sources worldwide, which means that it can be reused.
  • It is a flexible way of producing electricity. Gates of a dam can be closed when consumption to conserve water for a future call. Moreover, the energy produced can be used flexibly whenever needed.
  • Low head hydropower plant, that use diversion method and doesn’t require a dam to produce electricity, can be a big opportunity to reduce the dam’s production rates.


  • Numerous researches published last year explained a point that these dams, in fact, is the major cause of greenhouse gas emissions, adding to global pollution. In 2016 a study published, according to which roughly 25% more of the global warming was caused by dams and reservoirs than ever before. Considerably, the output of carbon dioxide gas is minor than that released by fossil fuel-powered plants, giving it an advantage over other energy resources.
  • As countries are developing, more hydropower plants are getting installed, affecting the water quality together with a great threat to the wildlife territory, dislocating them, and establishing dams on their habitat to store water. Dams can result as a blockage in the route of fishes, troubling their feeding and reproduction cycle. However today, some devices are invented to let the fishes move freely. Fish elevator and fish ladder are the two exclusive techniques to help fish in migration.
  • Dams used for hydroelectricity production can be serious damage and are expensive to build and their construction required time. The hydroelectric power plants charge close to 580$ per kilowatt to construct. Comparing to the solar panel installation, the financial budget for dam development is demanding.
  • The massive dams once produce, ignoring the construction rate and efforts, can flood huge surroundings leading to excessive environmental destruction, harming the organisms in water as well as on land. These dams are typically constructed on a higher elevation that leads the small town nearby at risk. Adding to it, flooding from excess water leads to the destruction of irrigation.
  • Hydropower production is water-dependent means it can fluctuate yearly depending on water availability resulting in an irregular supply of power. Intense drought potentially reduces the water availability for hydropower disturbing the electricity generation. Nevertheless, the good news is the water unavailability during most drought is short-termed, delaying electricity production slightly.
  • There are limited sites for the construction of dams all around. The places available are quite distant from cities, enabling them to get benefits from hydropower.


To sum up, the pros discussed above hydroelectricity can be beneficial following up some cons, introducing some obstacles discussed. Unlike other renewable sources, hydropower requires more planning. Due to an increasing trend of hydroelectric power, scientists recommended intense and strategic planning to control the negative impact globally. Numeral factors affecting the hydropower is the construction of plants, a place selected to construct the plant, and unforgettably the cost for the construction. Hydroelectric power plant set up requires proper research to eliminate all the obstacles discussed above. The rates of hydroelectric power are excepted to reach 18GW annually, with the capacity to increase even more in 2021 and 2022. Additionally, capacity growth is expected to increase by 50% annually if more power plants will be constructed. This value clears the fact of an increasing trend of hydroelectric power in countries throughout the globe. 

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