Hydroelectric power’s global surge
Countries across the world are increasingly turning to the undeniably clean and sustainable energy source of hydroelectric power. In this blog, PIF explains the intricacies of this exciting renewable and takes you on a global tour of hydroelectric producing countries.
What is hydroelectric power?
Hydroelectric power is the production of electrical power by harnessing the gravitational force of flowing or falling water. It accounts for around 16 per cent of global electricity generation, making it the most prevalent form of renewable energy, and is expected to grow by more than three percent annually for the next quarter of a century.
The four recognised methods of generating hydroelectric power are conventional dams, which use the water’s outflow to drive a turbine or generator; pumped storage, which pumps water into a higher reservoir for release during times of higher demand; run-of-the-river, where reservoirs are not a viable option; and tidal, making use of the daily ebb and flow of the sea.
Where in the world is hydroelectric power being harnessed?
The North America country has invested heavily in hydroelectric power. In a recent list of the Top 100 Canada’s Biggest Infrastructure Projects for 2015, hydropower claimed the top four spots, as well as ranking ten more times, according to HydroWorld.com. Site C Clean Energy Project, in British Columbia, topped the list with total cost of $8.775 billion. The cumulative value of Canadian hydroelectric power projects was estimated to be $157.9 billion In total, a 12 per cent increase over 2014, according to list publisher ReNew Canada.
Believe it or not, Central Asian country of Tajikistan is heavily on hydroelectric power. An estimated $75 million is being pumped into the upgrade of two out of six turbines at Tajikistan’s Qairokkum Hydroelectric Power Plant, according to Cistran Finance. Incredibly, those turbines have more than doubly exceeded their 30-year effective lifespan without renovations since the dam's launch in 1956. Back then, Qairokkum was the largest dam of its kind in Central Asia.
Norway and UK
Norway is nearing a €2bn agreement to allow the UK to import hydroelectric power via a 700km underwater power line – the world’s longest subsea interconnector – that could be built between the two Northern European countries, according to the Financial Times. Statnett, Norway’s grid operator, has said that a firm decision is imminent. Though the project has yet to receive an official sanction from the UK’s energy regulator, Ofgem. Should it go ahead, the NSN interconnector as it is known, would deliver 1,400 megawatts of power at a cost €1.5bn-€2bn to build.
China's 22,500-MW Three Gorges project has smashed the world record for annual hydroelectric power production. The Yangtze River plant generated 98.8 billion TWh through the end of 2014, beating the previous benchmark set in 2013 by nearest rival, Brazil's Itaipu Dam. “China Three Gorges Corporation said the hydropower project's output is roughly equivalent to burning 29 million metric tons of coal, eliminating 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions” said HydroWorld.com.
A new $72 million hydroelectric power plant has been earmarked for Cannonsville, New York State, which would generate 14 megawatts of electric for New York City. That's enough electricity to power 6,000 homes, on average, and could avoid an estimated 25,620 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually. That's the equivalent of removing 5,400 cars from the road.
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