Though you might not have heard much about it, micro hydro energy holds a great deal of promise as a green alternative to traditional fossil fuels like oil or coal power. It is completely environmentally friendly and renewable, but only can serve specific areas. In locations that have access to a running river or creek that is stable and not likely to dry up, micro hydroelectricity can be a viable power option.
Micro hydropower has been used since ancient times. Egyptian culture used the energy from flowing water to grind grain and operate machinery. Later, in 1882, the first hydroelectric power plant was built to light two paper mills and a home in Wisconsin. During the 20th century, hydropower played an instrumental part in the industrial revolution. Today, hydropower plants supply power to more than a billion people and produce 24 percent of the world’s electricity.
The flow of water from natural sources like rivers and streams, which carry a good amount of energy, is used to create micro hydropower using a turbine system that is placed in the water flow. The water wheel has become synonymous with hydropower, having been used to grind grain through the 20th century, but there are newer, more effective kinds of turbines.
The most common of these is the Pelton wheel, which consists of a succession of cups attached to a central hub. The force of flowing water pushes the cups and makes the turbine spin. As water flows over and pushes the turbines, electricity is generated. It can also work with just moderate water flow, but the faster the water flow, the more electricity produced.
Micro hydropower uses the same principals to create electricity that are used by dams, without disrupting ecosystems by interrupting the flow of water. Turbines are made from environmentally clean materials, and can collect flowing water without damaging the ecosystem. This can be accomplished by diverting no more than 20% of the water flow through the turbine, and by returning any diverted water back just downstream from the turbine.
Of the three most readily used renewable energy sources , including solar and wind power, micro hydropower is the least common, yet has the potential to reliably generate the most power under the right circumstances. While solar energy and wind power systems have to store energy for use when the sun is not shining or there is no wind, micro hydro energy only depends on the continual flow of water. It can continue to run and produce power night or day and in any kind of weather.
After electricity is collected and stored from micro hydropower, it can be transferred for home use. It is possible to achieve energy independence with a micro hydropower system and meet all of a home’s energy needs off grid. On grid usage provides the added benefit of being able to store extra energy or sell it back to the utility company.
If you live in an area that is favorable to harnessing energy through the use of micro hydropower, it can be a great way to generate green, renewable energy for home use. With a flowing river, the power source will never run out and shows great promise for the future of renewable energy.
Water, water everywhere…Did you know that about 70% of the earth’s surface is water? If it were possible to use our planet’s amplest resource to power our homes and our cities, we would never have to worry about running out. The good news is that water has been used to produce power for centuries. In fact, before electricity, hydropower ran mills and machines through the use of the paddle wheel. It comprises almost 75% of all renewable energy use in the United States today. And there are more and more applications of hydropower in research and development for the future.
Along with being completely renewable because of our plentiful resources, hydropower also allows us to generate power without pollution or waste. To be fair, some environmentalists have concerns with possible changes to natural habitats around hydropower plants. For example, the creation of the Hoover Dam disrupted spawning grounds and upset the upstream migration of salmon. Dams can harm river ecology, including native vegetation and fish because it changes the physical and chemical dynamics of the habitat. However, the problems can be addressed by mitigating harmful effects, such as by barging young salmon around dams.
Though it may seem complicated, hydropower works somewhat similarly to wind power. Water movement through a pipe generates power to push blades, which spin to produce electricity. This system can be run on rivers by using the force of the current for power. Or it can work through a dam system, as with the Hoover Dam. With this system, water pools in a reservoir because of the dam and is released as electricity is required.
The use of hydropower isn’t confined to rivers. The mighty ocean’s power can be put to use through such applications as tidal stream power, tidal and wave power systems. In areas with a wide tidal range between outgoing and incoming tides, tidal power turbines can work to generate electricity. Tidal power systems like this have been in use since the 1960s, and have been continually used since then in France. Tidal stream power works somewhat the same, but uses energy from continuous currents. It is a newer technology that is in the research stage and shows great promise.
Wave power, also in the research stage and showing promise, may have even greater potential for generating power than the tides. Devices to harness wave power can either float on the waves or be turned by the waves when air is displaced. Attempts have been made to harness wave power since 1890, but we still haven’t reached the ability to develop widespread commercial use of the technology.
Without a doubt, hydropower appears to be a promising source of energy for the future, as it is renewable, sustainable, and can generate power without pollution or waste. Although there are ecological concerns with interruption to life around hydropower plants, research is still being done to find ways to mitigate those problems. All in all, it just might hold the key for our planet’s energy production needs well into the future.