As a renewable and clean source of energy, many countries, including the UK, are increasing the use of water-generated power to limit the usage of fossil fuels. Discover more about hydroelectric energy, why it's the world's most used renewable energy source, and how you can use it to fuel your home.
What is hydroelectric energy?
Hydroelectric energy is energy produced from hydropower which is why the two terms are forever interlinked and used interchangeably. On top of that, hydroelectric energy is sometimes called hydroelectricity.
On a basic level, hydroelectric energy is power derived from falling water such as that from a waterfall or, fast-running water. As far back as a decade ago, 20% of the world's electricity was generated by hydropower and today, that number has undoubtedly doubled.
Hydroelectricity is so versatile and highly available that it can be used to power single homes or entire countries.
How does hydroelectric energy work?
All moving water, be it a drip from a tap or waves in the ocean, produces kinetic energy. At a hydropower plant, a turbine will convert the kinetic energy of falling water stored in a dam into mechanical energy.
A generator will then convert the mechanical energy into electricity or electrical energy. After this, a network of transmission lines will conduct (collect) the electricity and deliver it to homes via the National Grid.
The amount of electricity produced at a hydropower plant depends on how far the water falls and the amount of falling water - with greater distances and amounts producing more energy.
How to produce hydroelectric energy at home
Depending on where you live, you can get a mini hydroelectric or hydro system installed at home. Usually, hydro systems would suit off-grid or isolated properties such as farms and can be cheaper, or around the same price as, connecting to the National Grid.
If you live near a reliable supply of water like a river or stream, you could install a hydro system made of the following devices:
- A pressurized pipeline to deliver the water
- A turbine or pump to transform the kinetic energy into mechanical energy
- A generator to convert the mechanical energy into electricity
- A regulator to operate and control the generator
- Wiring to conduct (deliver) the electricity.
Many hydro systems also use an inverter to convert the direct current (DC) electricity produced by the system into 120 or 240 volts of alternating current (AC) electricity.
Before buying any equipment, you should contact an installer who will check if a hydro system will run efficiently on your property.
Most importantly, they'll check how often the level of water is high enough to support and supply your hydro system. If there's not enough water to run your system, then producing hydroelectricity for your property may not be an option.
Benefits of hydroelectric energy
If you are thinking of installing a hydro system at home, here are some reasons why you should produce your own hydroelectric energy:
- It's fuelled by water and therefore, a clean energy source
- Unlike solar power, hydro systems can run all day and night and in most weather conditions except for in droughts
- Little to no maintenance involved once installed
- Systems (i.e. water flows and electricity output) are adaptable to times when power consumption is low.