Hydraulic basin.
Hydraulic power.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of hydropower?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of hydropower?

The main advantage of hydraulic energy is that it is a renewable source of energy. It uses water to generate electric power. It harnesses the potential energy of water at a certain height to power hydraulic turbines and produces electricity.

The operating mechanism is to harness the potential energy of the water supply at a certain height. It is dropped to convert this energy into kinetic energy. The water’s kinetic energy drives a turbine connected to an electric generator. The generator supplies electricity to the power lines.

Generally, the facilities in charge of hydroelectric production are hydroelectric plants. In this case, we are talking about hydroelectric power.

The main drawback of this type of energy production is the damage suffered by ecosystems. These facilities are usually located in swamps or places where it is easy to accumulate large amounts of water. In them, the dams’ presence affects the ordinary course of the water.

Below we present the main pros and cons of hydroelectric energy.

Pros of hydraulic energy

The main advantages of this type of energy are:

1. Hydroelectric energy is renewable

Due to the water cycle, the availability of water to generate electricity is almost endless. For this reason, hydropower is a renewable energy source with high energy efficiency. It is an alternative for fossil fuels and nuclear.

2. It is a clean energy

It is reliable energy. It does not produce toxic emissions, unlike fossil energy during its operation, so it does not emit greenhouse gases.

3. It allows regulating production according to demand

For hydroelectric plants’ operation, it requires the plan of reservoirs to store water. The structure of reservoirs allows for managing electricity production according to need. Keeping water in a reservoir is the ditto of batteries in PV solar energy.

4. Facilitates flow management

The construction of reservoirs allows the control of the river flow. Often the effect of the rapid flooding of the flow in rainy seasons.

5. Economic advantages

A significant advantage of hydropower facilities is the independence of fossil fuel price change. It is immune to rising or falling prices of oil, coal, or natural gas. Furthermore, it is unnecessary to extract fuel or transport it to the power plant, representing significant economic savings.

Hydro plants also tend to have longer economic lives than power plants that use fuels. Operating costs are low because plants are automated and need few people for regular operation.

6. It is allowed to store energy using pumped-storage

This method stores energy in the form of the potential energy of water. The water is pumped from a lower elevation reservoir to a higher elevation. This method is useful when there is a surplus of energy. They use this energy to pump water up, and then when the demand is high, they drop the water to drive the turbines again.

Cons of hydraulic energy

This type of energy also has certain drawbacks that should be analyzed.

1. It involves the construction of hydroelectric dams and reservoirs

The main drawback of hydropower is that the construction of a hydroelectric power plant involves constructing large reservoirs.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of hydropower?These reservoirs, depending on where they are built, can flood significant tracts of land. Flooding involves loss of fertile land and property and ecosystem damage. Entire villages have been flooded.

2. It has some ecological impacts

The construction of a hydropower plant has some effects on the ecosystem. They depend on the characteristics of the place. Developing hydroelectric facilities is often linked to water quality degradation.

Dams and reservoirs can be destructive to aquatic ecosystems, especially for aquatic species that need to migrate to reproduce.

3. Affects the downstream flow

Downstream water flow regulation also has certain disadvantages. This feature changes the ecosystems in the downstream river. The water leaving the turbines has practically no sediment. It can result in erosion of river banks or the withdrawal of deltas at certain rivers’ mouths.

When the turbines are repeatedly opened and closed, the river flow can be drastically altered, causing an alteration in ecosystems.

4. It has a dependence on the weather

Hydraulic energy has the difficulty of forecasting the generation of electricity that the facilities will reach. Hydropower depends on the flow available in the rivers at all times.

In countries where irrigation is needed, water volume is reduced, decreasing the energy produced.

5. Energy transport

Hydroelectric power plants are usually in places away from consumption places, which forces the need for power lines. This need increases the kilowatt cost and causes energy losses and an environmental impact that increasingly finds more detractors.

Publication Date: May 9, 2018
Last Revision: November 7, 2020