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Hydroelectricity or hydroelectric power is the electricity obtained by harnessing the power of water flowing down from a high level. It is a timeless and renewable resource. Huge generators convert the potential energy of falling or fast moving water into electrical energy. The potential energy of the water is first converted into mechanical energy and then into electrical energy.

Surge tank

Layout of hydroelectric power plant

The dam is usually built on a large river that has a drop in elevation, so as to use the forces of gravity to aid in the process of creating electricity. A dam is built to trap water, usually in a valley where there is an existing lake. An artificial storage reservoir is formed by constructing a dam across a river. The area behind the dam where water is stored is called the reservoir. The water there is called gravitational potential energy. The water is in a stored position above the rest of the dam facility so as to allow gravity to carry the water down to the turbines. The intake shown in figure includes the head works which are the structures at the intake of conduits, tunnels or flumes. These structures include blooms, screens or trash - racks, sluices to divert and prevent entry of debris and ice in to the turbines. Booms prevent the ice and floating logs from going in to the intake by diverting them to a bypass chute. Screens or trash-racks (shown in fig) are fitted directly at the intake to prevent the debris from going in to the take. Debris cleaning devices should also be fitted on the trash-racks. Intake structures can be classified in to high pressure intakes used in case of large storage reservoirs and low pressure intakes used in case of small ponds. The use of providing these structures at the intake is, water only enters and flows through the penstock which strike the turbine. Control gates arrangement is provided with Spillways. Spillway is constructed to act as a safety valve. It discharges the overflow water to the downstream side when the reservoir is full. These are generally constructed of concrete and provided with water discharge opening, shut off by metal

control gates. By changing the degree to which the gates are opened, the discharge of the head water to the tail race can be regulated in order to maintain water level in reservoir. The penstock is a long shaft that carries the water towards the turbines, i.e. it is a passage to allow the water to flow in a unified direction from reservoir to the turbines. Surge Tank is installed along the penstock (between turbine and reservoirs) to control or regulate the sudden water over flow and to protect the penstock from bursting. It reduces the pressure and avoids damage to the penstock due to the water hammer effect (when the load on the turbine is decreased there will be a back flow, which causes increase or decrease in pressure- this is called water hammer). Draft Tube is installed immediately after the turbine exit. The main purpose of draft tube is to increase the pressure head of the water (which is even below the atmospheric pressure) so that water can be discharged through the tail race to atmosphere. If the pressure head is not increased that it will create a back flow of water which will damage the whole system. Power house: Here where the kinetic energy becomes mechanical energy by the means of a turbine. The force of the water is used to turn the turbines that turn the generator shaft. The turning of this shaft is known as rotational kinetic energy because the energy of the moving water is used to rotate the generator shaft. The work that is done by the water to turn the turbines is mechanical energy. This energy powers the generators, which are very important parts of the hydroelectric power plant; they convert the energy of water into electricity


Once the dam is built, the energy is virtually free. No waste or pollution produced. Much more reliable than wind, solar or wave power. Water can be stored above the dam ready to cope with peaks in demand. Hydro-electric power stations can increase to full power very quickly, unlike other power stations. Electricity can be generated constantly.


The dams are very expensive to build. However, many dams are also used for flood control or irrigation, so building costs can be shared. Building a large dam will flood a very large area upstream, causing problems for animals that used to live there. Finding a suitable site can be difficult - the impact on residents and the environment may be unacceptable. Water quality and quantity downstream can be affected, which can have an impact on plant life.