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Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 in Aeroflot livery comes to land ahead of the Farnborough Airshow 2012 in southern England on July 8. Hydroelectric power uses the gravitational force of water falling falling or flowing water to generate electricity. In Southcentral Alaska, the Eklutna hydroelectric facility was brought on line in 1955 by the federal government.
The Cooper Lake hydroelectric facility is owned and operated by Chugach Electric Association. Hydroelectric power is the generation of electric power from the movement of water flowing from a higher to a lower elevation.
Before a hydroelectric power site is developed, engineers must assess how much power will be produced when the facility is complete. A reaction turbine is a horizontal or vertical wheel that operates with the wheel completely submerged, a feature that reduces turbulence.
An impulse or Pelton-type turbine is a horizontal or vertical wheel that converts the fluid’s change in potential energy (hydraulic head) into kinetic energy by water striking its buckets or blades to make the extractable rotating shaft work.
A low-head dam is one with a water drop of less than 65 feet and a generating capacity less than 15,000 kW.
Run-of-the-river hydro facilities use the natural flow and elevation drop of a river to generate electricity. Power stations on rivers with great seasonal fluctuations require a large reservoir in order to operate during the dry season. Run-of-the-river power plants typically have a weir or diversion structure across the width of the river.
Small hydro is the development of hydroelectric power on a scale that serves a community or an industrial plant. A small hydro plant might be connected to a conventional electrical distribution network as a supplemental source of renewable energy. Non-recurring engineering costs are minimized, and development cost is spread over multiple units, so the cost of such systems is improved. Micro hydro plants may use purpose-designed turbines or industrial centrifugal pumps connected in reverse to act as turbines. Regulation of small hydro generating units may require water to be spilled at the diversion to maintain the downstream stream habitat. Since small hydro projects may have minimal environmental and licensing procedures, the equipment is usually in serial production. Small hydro and mini hydro can be used as alternative energy sources in off-grid communities with small loads. Run-of-the-river hydroelectric generators in Alaska do not provide the same seasonally consistent electric supply that larger hydroelectric projects do.
When suitable hydraulic heads are not present or when power needs are substantial, dams are constructed across rivers to store water and create hydraulic head to drive the turbo machinery. In addition to the actual dam structure, there are a number of other major design considerations. Where the topography allows, several successful design concepts are available to help mitigate the environmental impacts of conventional storage hydropower projects.
A strong attribute of conventional hydropower is the dispatchability that results from the ability to control the rate of power production through storage and release of water contained behind the dam.
Additionally, the scale of energy production attainable with hydroelectric storage lends it to connection with large electrical grids to displace conventional fossil fuel-based power sources with clean, non-carbon-based power. A solar farm is a collection of solar arrays on unimproved land for the purpose of generating power from the sun’s energy.
Large commercial photovoltaic solar farms typically use hundreds or thousands of PV panels covered to convert the sun’s rays into electricity. A photovoltaic solar panel farm uses solar panels that convert sunlight directly into electricity.
A solar thermal energy farm uses parabolic troughs that collect, reflect, and concentrate the sun’s energy to warm a heat transfer fluid. Using vacant land, often what might be considered farmland, and a mass of solar panels, a solar farm converts solar energy into electric power.
The basic principles are identical to that of a solar panel operation installed on a homeowner’s roof, just on a larger scale. Currently, the largest solar panel farm in the world is Huanghe Hydropower Golmud Solar Park, located in China.
There is currently a 550 MW solar farm (The Desert Sunlight Project) under construction in Riverside County, California.
The largest solar thermal energy farm in the world is creatively called the Solar Energy Generating System, located in the Mojave Desert in California.
Sunlight in the areas represented by black disks could produce enough energy to power the world. Solar panels are typically mounted on rotating towers that can maneuver the tilt and angle of each panel, following the arc of the sun to generate the optimal amount of power. Further, while a residential solar panel system is limited by roof space, architectural constraints, and the problem of aesthetics, vast expanses of unimproved land can be utilized as solar farms, where only start up and operational costs govern the scale of the operation.
It could be argued that using large swaths of land for a singular purpose may be problematic from a development standpoint. By 1908, southeast Alaska alone had over 30 developed water power sites with a capacity of 11,500 kW.
Most hydroelectric power comes through the use of dams: the potential energy of dammed water drives a water turbine and generator.


It began operation in 1960 and was recently relicensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
In contrast, hydrokinetic technology is a pre-commercial technology that uses river current to generate electric power. They also review the natural conditions that exist at each site: surface topography, geology, river flow, water quality, and annual rainfall and snowfall cycles.
The head and the discharge at the power site and the desired rotational speed of the generator determine the type of turbine to be used. It takes into account losses in the amount of head due to friction in the penstock and variations due to efficiency levels of mechanical devices used to harness the power.
Other types of turbines include fixed pitch propeller and crossflow (also called the Ossberger or Banki turbines).
In theory, the reaction turbine works like a rotating lawn sprinkler, where water at a central point is under pressure and escapes from the ends of the blades causing rotation.
Pelton or Turgo impulse turbines may have single or multiple nozzles that accelerate flow to produce high velocity jets that impinge on a set of rotating turbine buckets to transfer their kinetic energy. Large, high-head dams can produce more power at lower cost than low-head dams, but construction of large dams may be limited by lack of suitable sites, by environmental considerations, or by economic conditions. This weir contains an intake structure, often consisting of a trash rack, an intake screen, and de-sanding elements to conduct the water into the penstock. Spring breakup will create a lot of energy, while flow diminishment during winter and dry seasons will create relatively little energy.
The definition of a small hydro project varies, but a generating capacity of up to 10 MW is generally accepted as the upper limit of what is termed small hydro. Alternatively, a small hydro project might be built in an isolated area that would be uneconomic to serve from a network, or in areas where there is no electrical distribution network. These water-to-wire packages simplify the planning and development of the site, since one vendor looks after most of the equipment supply.
While synchronous generators capable of isolated plant operation are often used, small hydro plants connected to an electrical grid system can use economical induction generators to further reduce installation cost and to simplify control and operation.
While these machines rarely have optimum hydraulic characteristics when operated as turbines, their low purchase cost makes them attractive for micro hydro class installations.
Spilling will also happen when the natural flow exceeds the hydroelectric system capacity, since the project will generally have no reservoir to store unused water. This is a result of the seasonal changes in the flows of Alaska rivers, with diminished flow rates during the winter months. Dams typically last for 50 to 100 years and so, are constructed of durable materials like reinforced concrete, roller-compacted concrete, earth, and crushed rock. For example, the penstock inlet manifold (usually with screens to keep debris and fish from entering the turbine) and the discharge or tailrace system must be designed to maintain the hydraulic head and minimize the effects of sedimentation, silt, and ice build-up. In regions with high-elevation natural lakes, lake taps may be utilized to feed a power tunnel bored in rock to carry water to the downstream powerhouse. Given the general increase in electrification that is occurring worldwide, the demand for using hydropower reservoirs for both base-load and peaking applications is rising. Fuel switching to inexpensive hydropower may be possible in some situations for home heating and (someday) for plugin hybrid cars.
The most commonly repeated--and my personal "favorite"--is that China is completing the construction of new coal-fired power plants at a rate of 2-3 per week, a truly astonishing figure. This transfer fluid is pumped into a thermal engine that converts the heat into electricity. A solar farm takes advantage of a large tract of land to generate and sell electricity to the local utility at a profit. So in contrast to residential solar panel systems, a solar farm can better situate panels to make the most of the available solar radiation. Having panels concentrated in one location also makes maintenance and repairs much easier and more economical than going rooftop to rooftop.
Producing economical, efficient, renewable energy and helping to reduce a region’s carbon footprint are clearly very positive attributes.
Construction Begins on Britain’s Largest Solar PlantBritain is set to build its largest PV plant - with 125,000 PV panels worth $55 million - at an old military airfield.
The vast majority, built by private developers, provided power for industrial operations, mainly for the gold mining works in Juneau and on Douglas Island.
The power that is generated at a hydroelectric facility depends upon the volume of water moving through the dam and the height difference between the water's source and outflow.
As the cheapest energy source connected to the Railbelt energy grid, it currently produces power at a rate of a few cents per kWh. A number of smaller hydroelectric projects owned by individual utilities are located across the state, mostly in Southeast Alaska. A hydroelectric facility requires a dependable flow of water and a reasonable height of fall of water, called the head.
Extensive studies are conducted to evaluate the site’s environmental conditions, land status and other factors that may influence the configuration of the hydro plant and the equipment selection. To determine how much electrical power can be produced, the mechanical measure (horsepower) must be converted into electrical terms (Watts). Francis or Kaplan turbines are reaction machines that utilize both hydraulic pressure and kinetic energy to create rotating shaft work. The wheel is covered by a housing, and the buckets or blades are shaped so they turn the flow of water about 170 degrees inside the housing.
The key to the usefulness of low-head units is their lower capital costs and the ability to satisfy local power needs with the available resource.


Instead, some of the water is diverted from a river and sent into a pipe called a penstock. These installations have a small reservoir behind the diversion to keep the intake flooded and reduce icing problems. A run-of-the-river power plant has little or no capacity for energy storage, and so cannot coordinate the output of electricity generation to match consumer demand. Small hydro projects usually have minimal reservoirs and civil construction work, consequently a relatively low environmental impact. For micro hydro schemes feeding only a few loads, a resistor bank may be used to dissipate excess electrical energy as heat during periods of low demand. When compared with other renewable energy alternatives like wind and solar, run-of-the river hydroelectric generators are able to deliver a relatively consistent electric supply throughout the day.
The dams and reservoirs of larger hydroelectric projects provide for energy storage, holding water to be used to generate electricity when flows are lower. Substantial effort goes into the design of the dam spillway to safely direct extreme flows downstream of the dam when the available reservoir storage is inadequate to contain it.
Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, Power Resources Office, Hydroelectric Power, July 2005.
There are also some very small private facilities, most of which are owned by fish processors. In a typical installation, water is fed from a reservoir through a conduit called a penstock into a hydraulic turbine. More head or faster flowing water means more power.4 The steep mountains, abundant rain and snow, and relatively mild winter temperatures in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska provide the ideal hydrologic conditions for hydroelectric power. In order to optimize the power output and reduce capital costs, the specific turbine to be used in a power plant is not selected until all operational studies and cost estimates are complete. In contrast to a reaction turbine, the fluid contained in the impulse turbine does not completely fill all available void space, and the turbine operates at ambient pressure.
Micro hydro applications might serve for single families or small enterprises, while mini hydros might be appropriate for small communities.
In a sense this energy is wasted, but the incremental fuel cost is negligible so economic loss is minor. Unfortunately, most Alaska electric loads are highest during the winter, the same time that river flow (and the electric power generation capability of small and run-of the-river hydro) is at its lowest.
They vary substantially in terms of height and storage volume, depending upon local topography.
At other sites, natural barrier waterfalls can facilitate licensing of upstream hydro development through their function as fish migration barriers. The variable nature of other renewable energy sources like wind and solar makes pairing with hydro energy storage an attractive option for integrated supply systems. After turning the blades or buckets, the water falls to the bottom of the wheel housing and flows out.
Because of the difference in elevation, potential energy from the water upriver is transformed into kinetic energy and then to electrical energy. This lowers the amount of run-of-the-river hydro capacity that can be installed without significant amounts of excess capacity in the summer.
There are several design approaches used for concrete dams, including solid and hollow, gravity and arch geometries.
Fish protection and passage facilities and eco-friendly turbines can also be designed to mitigate fisheries impacts of hydroelectric facility construction. These power plants have proven to be long-term, reliable, and relatively inexpensive sources of power. The rotating shaft is connected to an electrical generator, which converts the shaft motion into electrical energy. The water leaves the generating station and is returned to the river with minimal alteration of the existing flow or water levels. He writes mostly about energy and environmental politics, clean tech, infrastructure and green business. Industry groups comment on rules for solar projects on public landsSolar industry players have submitted comments on the Interior Department's draft rules for solar energy development in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. Hydropower installations have the reputation for being robust and durable, operating successfully at some sites for more than a century. When not reading, writing, or talking about environmental politics to anyone who will listen, Tim likes to ski, hike with his aging lab and get dirty in his Colorado veggie garden.
Hydropower’s low operation and maintenance costs coupled with long lifetimes result in stable power rates. Mitigation measures, compliance monitoring, and environmental follow-up programs must be established. In Alaska, hydropower is currently the largest and most important producer of electricity from a renewable energy source.
With increased interest in replacing fossil-fuel-powered generation with renewable energy resources, the statewide inventory of installed hydropower capacity will continue to expand.
Exploring a wide range of topics from policy to social movements, Ecopolitology provides an in-depth and accessible narrative about what moves sustainability in the world today.




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