Being able to control water flow means we have achieved a lot throughout history. Gushing rivers and tidal waves are a natural occurrence but there is much more to water flow than might meet the eye at first.
Water flow can generate incredible force which is why it’s used in the production of hydroelectricity.
This renewable energy source accounts for just 7% of the energy used in the United States although it has comparatively low production compared to other sources of energy.
How Does Water Flow Work?
It might surprise you to know that the Ancient Greeks used water flow with the river turning their waterwheels.
This centuries-old technology has been refined to modern water flow practices which include streams, waterfalls and ocean waves to create electricity.
The Hoover Dam and Three Gorges Dam are good examples of generating hydroelectricity via water flow.
These dams are reservoirs which release or restrict the flow of water depending on current electricity demand.
The huge water flow products kinetic energy to turn massive turbines which power large generators.
The generators then convert this kinetic energy into electricity. Hydro electricity is one of the most popular renewable energy options today.
These dams get sufficient rainfall every year to fill up the reservoirs or dams.
Hydroelectricity produces over 54% of all energy every year using sustainable and/or renewable methods.
Water flow does not release dangerous greenhouse gases like some non-renewable energy sources.
Water Flow Pros
Main water flow pros are:
1) Renewable Source of Energy
Water flow doesn’t deplete but can be returned to its origin. This means it can be used again and again, making it a renewable energy source.
The planet is never going to run out of water which means constructing water dams can use this infinite supply to make electricity, which humans use on a daily basis.
2) No Pollution
Many sources of energy, such as fossil fuels, biomass and nuclear power, cause climate change, pollution and other forms of environmental degradation.
Hydroelectric energy, on the other hand, is a clean source of energy which causes no pollution at all.
3) Can Produce Scalable Energy
Water flow can be regulated easily using dams and hydro plants, making it a flexible source of energy because production can be scaled to meet current demand.
Water flow doesn’t need as much startup time as steam- or gas-powered power plants, so it’s simpler to make more whenever demand goes up instead of creating energy which goes to waste if it isn’t all used.
4) Cost-Effective Solution
All you need in order to run a hydroelectric plan is controlled water flow, meaning the maintenance and operating costs are lower than with other sources of energy.
Building a dam might not be cheap but dams don’t need much in the way of maintenance or repairs, making them a cost-effective choice.
Dams can last over a century with minimal maintenance.
5) Energy Production for Industrial Use
These water flow plants create energy for public networks but they can also be constructed with powering industries in mind.
Some hydroelectric plants only cater to industries that make steel and aluminum.
6) Aids Development of Remote Communities
Water flow can help remote communities to develop since the electricity generated this way is cheap and can be transported to the more remote communities.
This can lead to highways, new businesses and industries being developed in the region, creating education and healthcare benefits as well as creating jobs and improving quality of life.
7) Shields Against Floods
Reservoirs are designed and constructed to hold hundreds of gallons of water, since a lot of water is required to generate sufficient power to turn turbines.
Because so much water can be stored in a reservoir this can help reduce the risk of rural floods.
8) Recreational Spaces
A reservoir used to create water flow energy creates a structure like a lake which can offer swimming, fishing, boating, diving, and other fun activities.
9) Plenty of Irrigating Water
Famers are able to use water from the lake to irrigate crops in the case of insufficient rainfall.
It is also helpful minimizing drought risk in case of water shortages caused by lack of rain.
Water Flow Cons
Main water flow cons are:
1) Environmental Damage
Water flow does offer environment pros but it also offers cons.
First of all, when you divert water from natural water bodies to hydroelectric plants this impacts the natural flow and can hard the ecosystem in both bodies of water.
Dams can cut off the paths fish will use when migrating towards sources of food during the winter, thereby affecting fish mortality numbers and marine biodiversity.
2) Lots of Capital Needed Upfront
Dams might not need much in the way of operational costs and maintenance but they still cost a lot of money to build in the first place.
They also take a long time to build which means high labor costs as well as logistical costs.
Large areas of land must be vacated near natural bodies of water so these dams can run smoothly, which also adds to the overall high cost.
3) Many Risk Factors
Dams have to be constructed with the best construction materials and most accurate calculations to replicate the natural flow of water.
If a dam can’t store enough water to generate electricity it might fail under pressure and flood nearby premises.
This would also affect flora and fauna health.
4) Methane Production
Water flow doesn’t produce dangerous greenhouse gases but it does create methane. This means it isn’t completely eco-friendly or clean.
The reason methane is released is that there is irregular plant growth in these dams.
5) Drought Possibility
Regulating the flow of water can negatively impact the flow in locations close by. A drought could also affect how the hydroelectric plant performs.
6) Damage to Wetlands
These plants need massive dams which can result in damage to grasslands, forests, marshes, and wetlands in the vicinity, leading to negative effects on wildlife.
7) Raises Relocation Costs
Dams can be risky to nearby areas since they are constructed on high land to get enough force from the water flow to make the turbines turn.
Anyone living close by are risking flood damage from the powerful water currents.
8) Geological Damage
The land around dams can become infertile and lack natural nutrients. They can also become more prone to having earthquakes.
The Hoover Dam caused a number of earthquakes resulting in permanent damage.