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Hydro electric power plant is a place where hydro electric power is generated. Hydro electric power
generation is the process of converting energy of flowing water into electricity. Hydro power being the
renewable energy is most widely used and it contributes 19% of total electric power generated. These
are the most economic source of electricity.


It started 2000 years back with

Greeks using water wheels for grinding
wheat into flour. In 1700s hydro
power was used foe milling and
pumping of irrigation water. With the
invention of the hydraulic turbine there
came a sudden expansion of hydro
power. In 1881, a brush dynamo
connected to a turbine in a flourmill
provided street lighting at Niagara
Falls, New York (The history of

Source of picture:

Within next 20 years approximately more than 300 hydro power plants were setup all over the
world. Niagara Falls was the first hydro power site developed for a vast quantity of electricity and it is
the power plant which is in use till date (The history of hydropower).

The year 1902, Indias first hydro electric power plant started power generation. The power
station was installed at Sivasamudram, an island located in the upper course of river Cauvery; South
India which transmitted power to the Kolar Gold mines initially (Michael).

By the end of this module one will be able to understand:

General terms and formulae related to hydro electric power plant

Classification of hydro electric power plants
Layout of hydro electric power plant
Components of a hydro electric power plant
Water management involved n hydro power plant


Capacity of plant is determined based on power generated, is it can be stated as electricity generated
by the power plant.

Capacity of the hydro power plant depends upon two factors and they are;

1. Head
2. Rate of flow

HEAD: potential energy possessed by the water in terms of height that is vertical height from the top of
the water to the center to the turbine.

RATE OF FLOW: speed with which water flows is the rate of flow.


Rate of work done per unit time is termed as power

Power developed is given as product of head and rate of flow of water and is measured in Watts,
KW, and MW

Power developed is given as,


g Acceleration due to gravity

h Head

r Rate of flow

k co-efficient of efficiency ranging from 0 to 1


The amount of power required to meet the demands is termed as load of the power plant. Load is
of types:

a. Base load: the minimum amount of power to be generated to meet the demands these values
vary from hour to hour.
b. Peak load: it is considered as period of high demand
c. Off-peak load: its opposite of peak load usually demand is low


Fraction of time plant is available for power generation


It is the maximum generation of the plant to the designed capacity of the plant and is given as;

= (maximum load)/(rated capacity)

It is also termed as plant load factor or use factor.


It is the ratio of total power generation of a plant for a given period to that the plant is capable
of delivering over the same period and is given as;

= (average load)/(rated capacity of plant)


= (area under load curve)/(duration of the load curve)


= (actual peak demand)/( )


= (sumof peak demands of subsystems)/(maximum demand of the system)


= (average load over a period)/(peak load in that period)


National Policy for hydro power development has categorized hydro electric power plants into
various types depending on the amount of power generated (i.e., capacity), head available and amount of
water supply. They are as follows:

I. Hydro electric power plants depending on the capacity of the plant are as follows:
1. Mega hydro electric power plants
2. Small hydro electric power plants
3. Mini hydro electric power plants
4. Micro hydro electric power plants

Mega hydro electric power plants: these are the power plants with capacity greater than or equal to
500MW and are responsible for most of the hydel power supply for developed countries.

Small hydro electric power plants: these are the one with capacity ranging from 2MW to 25MW. It
supplies power for small communities and industries.

Mini hydro power plants: these are of capacity ranging from 101KW to 25MW and are used by smaller
firms and smaller villages for basic needs.

Micro hydro electric power plants: these are of capacity ranging up to 100KW and supply power to
individual houses, isolated villages and smaller communities and for processing small machinery.

II. Depending on the head available

1. Mega hydro electric power plants are the one with High head that is the head greater than
300m and up to 1000m (Khemani, 2009). A large dam is constructed to store water and provide
sufficient head. They are capable of storing water during raining season and using it for power
generation during summer. These are consistent and reliable.
2. Medium head plants are the one with head ranging less than 300m but above 50m (Khemani,
2009). These are located in mountain regions.
3. Small, Mini, Micro hydro power plants are of lower heads compared to the mega hydro power
plants. Heads for these power plants are:
a. Small Hydro power plant- 50m to 20m
b. Mini- 5m to 20m
c. Micro - >5m
III. Other type of hydro power plants depending upon the quantity of water supply

1. Run - of - river power plant: in this water from the running water (river) is used for power
generation and there is no special storage system for
this type of plants. Thus for this plants power
generation capacity is more during rainy season as
the flow rate is high and low during non-rainy
seasons as flow rate is not available.

source: www.

2. Storage type power plant: this is a power plant where a dam is built to store water to give
sufficient head for power generation. Water is
stored in the dam to meet the fluctuations from wet
to dry season. The dam capacity depends on the
capacity of the power to be generated. This type of
power plant can meet any point on the load curve
(hydro electric power plants depending on heads)

source: www.

3. Run - of - river with pondage: a small water pondage is setup on the flowing water for the
storage of water. The size of the pondage varies
depending on the fluctuations to be met. Tail race
conditions should be considered while providing
with a pondage that is tail race water level should be
maintained thus maintaining the head of the power
plant and its efficiency.
This type of power plant is more reliable and
efficient compared to the one without a pondage.

source: www.

4. Pumped storage: in this system the water from tail

race (lower elevation) is pumped back to the
reservoir (higher elevation). This system is
employed where availability of water is low and
for load balancing. This type of power plant is
beneficial during peak loads (hydro electric
power plants depending on heads). source: www.
Layout of a hydro electric power plant is the arrangement of various components of the power
plant in a defined way so as to utilize the maximum
available space. Layout should be in such a way so as
to insure ease in operation, maintenance and should
be convenient in erection.

Layout of the power plant includes

construction of a dam to setting up a power house.
There are various components in the hydro electric
power plant which are arranged in a defined way to
give maximum output. All these components
combined together are called a layout of a hydro
electric power plant.

source: www.vikinpaper.pdf

Schematic diagram of layout of hydro electric power plant is as follows:

Various components of hydro electric power plant are as follows:

1. Dam
2. Inlet
3. Spillways
4. Conduits
5. Surge tanks
6. Turbine
7. Draft tube
8. Tailrace
9. Governor
10. Generator
11. Power house


A dam is like a barrier built on the river to stores or holds water for providing sufficient head to the
hydro power plant depending on the capacity of the plant. Dams are categorized into various types
depending upon various factors like:

1. By structure
2. By size
3. By material
4. Other types
i. Based on Structure dams are of different types and they are as follows with figures as
a. Arch dams
b. Gravity Dams
c. Arch-gravity Dams
d. Barrages
e. Embankment dams or Masonry dams
Arch dams: the construction of this type of dam is in form of an arch at places with steeps rocky walls
and a rocky base. The thickness of the arch dam depends on the
cross section of the valley (Farlex, 1979). These are again of
three types:

a. Single arch dams: these are of two types Constant angle

dam and Constant radius type.
b. Double curvature dams
c. Multiple arch dams


Gravity dams: these are of large structures of concrete to hold huge volumes of water. As concrete is
used the weight of the dam resists the thrust of the water on
it hence called gravity dams.

The structural design of this dam is simple and

durable. Gravity dams need large amount of material and
time for construction and are relatively expensive.

Source: www.

Arch gravity dams: as the name indicates it is the dam with

both the features of arch dam as well as gravity dam. The curved
structure or the arch of the dam resists the pressure of water
acting on it. The curved structure of the arch holds the pressure
of the water and the material needed for the construction is
comparatively less than gravity dams.

Hoover dam Source: en.wikipedia

Barrages: these consist of series of gates with open and close
facility which controls the flow of water. These are built on rivers
and utilize tidal flow for production of electricity. According to
World Commission on Dams, the difference between a dam and a
barrage is that the dam is used to store water where as the barrage is
used for diverting water raising the water level for a few feet.

Prakasham barrage source:

Embankment or Masonry Dams: these are the dams which are made of the stone and brick. The
largest dam of this type is the Nagarjuna Sagar dam across
the river Krishna, India.

They serve the purpose of irrigation and as well for power



ii. Based on the size of dams, dams are classified into following types:

Saddle dams: These are constructed to create a higher elevation and storage to increase efficiency.
These dams are constructed in a saddle and the reservoir is protected by a dike (planar wall rock
structures, such as bedding) (Dike (geology)) from indentation of nearby land.

Weir Dam: also called as over flow dam. In this dam a weir is placed in the river create impoundment


Check Dam: it a small size dam usually controls the rate of flow and soil erosion. This type of prevents
the accumulation of sediment.

source: www.

Dry Dam: designed in a way to control floods. This dam does not hold any water except during time of
heavy flow.

Diversionary Dam: this type of dam is used to divert the

water flow.

source: www.

Underground Dam: it is used to trap the underground water. These are again of two types

a. Sub surface Dam

b. Sand storage Dam

Tailing Dams: the base of the dam is constructed with tailings and there are three types of tailing dams

a. Upstream
b. Downstream
c. Centerline
iii. Based on type of material used:
1. Steel dams
2. Timber dams:

Timber dams: the type of dams which are made of timber (wood, pine, fir, etc). These are usually
meant for small heads ranking from 2m
to 4m. They are placed usually in form
of wooden shields in a row one above
the other.

These are again of two types and they


a. Timber crib dams

b. Timber plank dams Source:

iv. Other type of dams:

1. Coffer dams are nothing but temporary barriers.
2. Beaver Dam

Selection of the type of dam is based on various factors such as:

1. Nature of foundation
2. Nature of valley
3. Permeability of foundation material
INLETS: There are two types of inlets or gates and they are:

Weir gates: they are installed to:

a. Increase the head

b. Automatically control the water level
c. Act as flood protection


Sluice gates: they are installed at,

a. Main inlet
b. Used for desilting
c. Behind Draft tube



Spillways are the structures which are used to release the excess water from the dam and
reducing the pressure on the dam. Thus it safeguards the dam.

These are of various types (R.K.Rajput, 2008):

i. Overfall or solid Gravity spillway

ii. Chute or trough spillway
iii. Saddle spillway
iv. Shaft or glory hole spillway
v. Side channel spillway
vi. Emergency spillway
vii. Siphon spillway

The selection of the type of spillway depends on:

i. Site conditions
ii. Type of dam
iii. Quantity of flood water to be discharged below
(R.K.Rajput, 2008)

A headrace is a channel which leads water to a turbine and a tailrace is a channel which
conducts water from the wheels (R.K.Rajput, 2008).

These are of two types:

1. Open conduits
2. Close conduits

Open conduits are again of types:

i. Canals: open water way excavated in natural ground (R.K.Rajput, 2008)

ii. Flumes: it is an open channel erected on the surface supported above the ground.

Closed are of types:

i. Tunnels: closed channel excavated through natural obstruction.

ii. Pipelines: closed conduit supported above the ground.
iii. Penstocks: Penstocks are the one which carry water from the dam to the hydraulic turbine. These
are enclosed pipes. They supply water under pressure to the turbine. These penstocks are
available in various sizes.


It is small tank which is responsible in controlling the pressure inside the close conduits. The
water level rises and reduces depending on the pressure inside the penstocks.

The main purpose of installing a surge tank:

To reduce hammering effect on the walls of the penstocks

It acts as storage tank when water levels are low

Various types of surge tanks are:

1. Simple surge tank

2. Inclined surge tank
3. Expansion type or Gallery type surge tank
4. Restricted orifice surge tank
5. Differential surge tank Source:

Simple surge tank: it is a vertical stand pipe connected to the penstock. This type controls the pressure
level inside the penstocks but these are uneconomical. These are built high to avoid overflow.

Inclined surge tank: to reduce the height of the surge tank it is installed on the penstock with an
inclination. This is costlier compared to simple surge tank thus is less popular.

Expansion type or Gallery type surge tank: a surge tank which has an expansion at the top and top;
these expansions limit the extreme surges (R.K.Rajput, 2008).

Restricted orifice surge tank or throttled surge tank: the main purpose of this type of surge tank is
to create an appreciable friction loss when the water is flowing to or from the tank (R.K.Rajput,
2008). These surge tanks are less popular compared to other type of surge tanks.

Differential surge tanks: it is a tank with a riser and a small hole at the bottom which allows water into
the tank. The area of the hole is responsible for the function of the tank.

It is the one which coverts energy of flowing water into electric power. Depending upon the
water source available the type of turbine is selected.

Turbines are basically are divided based on:

I. How potential energy is converted to mechanical energy:

1. Impulse turbine:
Pelton turbine is impulse turbine where the energy of water is converted to mechanical energy
as it passes through the nozzle. As water passes through the nozzle a high velocity jet of water is
formed which drives the wheel.
A pelton turbine is used for head more than 250m.

2. Reaction turbine: combined action of pressure and velocity of water that completely fills the
runner and water passage (R.K.Rajput, 2008) these are of two types:
a) Francis turbine
b) Kaplan turbine

Francis turbine: a reaction turbine employed where the head varies from 2.5m to 450m for large
power plants.

In this type of turbine the runner is inside the casing and is surrounded completely by water. This
turbine has guide ways which can be adjusted for efficient turbine operation.

Kaplan turbine: it is a propeller type turbine with adjustable blades. It has inlet wicket gate. These are
used for high head and low flow power production. The flow of water onto the turbine is tangential to
the runner which causes it to spin. These turbines are expensive in design and construction. These
turbines are employed where head ranges from 1.5m to 70m (reaction turbines, 2008).


Turbines other than above mentioned are:

1. Propeller turbine: head ranges 1.5m to 30m

2. Tubular turbine: employed for low and medium heads range of less than 15m

Other types of turbines are Horizontal and Vertical tube turbine and Michell turbine.
DRAFT TUBE: A draft tube is employed for,

1. To avoid loss of head

2. To facilitate inspection and maintenance

These are of various types straight, conical, concentric, elbow type draft tubes.


It is used to control the water flow into the turbine.

The governor controls the load and speed of the hydro
power unit. The turbine is connected to the governor to
control the speed and maintain a uniform speed
throughout the operation. Different types of governors
are: porter governor, Carnell governor etc.

There are various governors which are:

i. Speed sensing governor

ii. Speed droop governor
iii. Compensating dashpot source:


The path through which water comes out of the power plant after power generation is called
tailrace. It is the discharge system of the power plant.


This is responsible for converting the rotational energy into electrical energy.


It is responsible for generation and distribution of power to various grids of the plant. There are
various types of power houses classified depending on the method of arranging the main generating
units and they are:
1. Indoor type: in this type of power plant the generator room is completely enclosed at a height
and transfer of equipment is done by indoor crane.
2. Semi-outdoor: in this type of power house the generator room is enclosed and the main hoisting
and equipment are installed on the roof of the plant. In this type the equipment is handled by
hatches (hatch: an opening, as in the roof or floor of a building (Farlex, 1979))
3. Outdoor type: in this power house there is no generator room instead all are setup in individual
The selection of power house depends on initial cost, maintenance cost and the operational costs.
The structural economy of the power house is also taken into consideration.

General arrangement of a power house:

The power house is divided into four main parts:

1. Main power house structure: housing the generating units is done and is combined to the
2. Erection bay: it is setup at the end of the generator room with the same floor elevation.
3. Service areas: this includes offices, control room, testing room, storage room, maintenance
shop, equipment room and son on for special uses.
4. Space allocations: public area for public entrance, reception etc.
Employee area: for their entrance, rest rooms, operator rooms for operators and fish water
unit areas, service areas, lunch rooms, first aid rooms, etc.
Storage areas: battery charging rooms, cable rooms, oil & lubricants storage room, etc.

There are various other considerations taken into account while setting up a power house like:

Main power house connections

Control cable connections
Power house auxiliary equipment
Design details both interior and exterior
Structural analysis
Stability analysis
Security details

Water being the main source of power generation for a hydro electric power plant its
management is very important. Proper and continuous supply of water must be done for power plant.
The plant should be able to meet the demands even during draught conditions by storing water in the
dam. Thus most of the dams are provided with dams and reservoirs not only to provide sufficient head
but also to have continuous power generation.


High capital investment and has large fixed costs and relatively small operational costs. These
dams produce high profits with low operational costs.


1. These plants do not need fuel
2. Needs water for power production which is available in plenty
3. They are reliable
4. Renewable energy source
5. These plants are less expensive
6. These are very responsive when compared to other power generation systems
7. These plants produce no toxic substances or waste
8. Hydro power plants do not pollute the atmosphere thus reduce green house effect
9. Low maintenance cost
10. Electricity is produced for years when once the plant is setup as the plants have a very good life
11. Water flowing from the dam is not only used for power generation but also used for irrigation
12. Electricity is generated at a constant rate throughout the year
13. These plants are very efficient
14. Hydro electric power is clean as uses only water for generation
15. Ground water levels are maintained due to the storage of water in the dams and reservoirs
16. These are flexible i.e., when power generation us not needed the gates can be closed and water is
stored for power generation when needed
17. The reservoir lakes are even used for recreation
18. They are also a tourist attraction
19. Proper water supply and flood control
Hydro electric power plant to a great extent affects the environment in and around the site.
Construction of the dam disturbs the river and ecosystem of the land. Though hydro electric power
plants do not emit any kind of toxic substances these power plants also have a negative impact on the
environment. Dam acts like a barrier it regulates the flow of river water and land is used for installing
power plant which was once used for agriculture and domestic purposes. Large area of land is being
submerged by the construction of these dams which were used previously for foresting and agriculture.
These power plants even destroy the way of life of native people.

The quantity of water in the downstream of the river is being altered due to damming. Thus
rivers downstream are deprived of silt which is responsible for fertile rivers flood plain.

The marine life is affected to a great extent due to the power plant. These power plants due to
water storage systems have a great impact on temperatures of the surrounding.

Bacteria present in decaying vegetation can also change mercury, present in rocks underlying
a reservoir, into a form which is soluble in water (Baird). This mercury gets accumulated in the body
of fish leading to health problems for the population dependent on sea food.

The quality of water in the reservoirs also leads to health problems due to bacteria which grow in
the hydro reservoirs.

Designing and building and operating hydro electric power plant is a complex process. One
should have a thorough knowledge about power plant design, type of power plant, working principle,
advantages and disadvantages, impact on environment of the power plant to operate it. Knowledge of
financing for power projects is also needed in designing and constructing a power plant.

This module provides a complete description of the hydro power plant for the operator to
understand every aspect to hydro power plant and enable them to work on hydro power plant systems.

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Hydro power technology overview. (2005, 07). Retrieved 06 30, 2012, from Alaska Energy Wiki: http://energy-

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