Hydropower briefly explained

Illustration hydropower

Hydropower is an environment-friendly and renewable energy source. In Norway, 99 percent of all power generation is hydropower. Worldwide, hydropower contributes around one sixth of the total electricity supply.

The advantages of hydro are many – it is renewable, it is clean, it is reliable, it is flexible and can serve many generations with low-cost electricity from a local resource. Also, the potential is largest in areas where the energy needs are greatest, such as South America, Asia and Africa. In many developed countries there is an opportunity to optimize the existing plants.

The principle of hydropower

The principle behind the production of hydropower is simple; it uses the energy of flowing water. Many hydropower plants benefit from several storage schemes, and in some river systems a number of power stations are positioned in cascade one after the other, so that the water’s energy can be exploited several times before it finally flows out into the sea. Inside the power station, the water drives a turbine, whose mechanical energy is turned into electrical energy in the generator. Hydropower is a highly flexible energy source, since the water can be stored in the reservoirs until needed. Hydropower schemes without reservoirs are often called run-of-river.

Environmental aspects

Hydropower is an environment-friendly and renewable source of energy. It produces no air pollutants, and shows the best Green House Gases (GHG) emission performances of all power generation technologies. This is an extremely important factor, since the stabilization of GHG emissions is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world today.

Besides its positive contributions to combat resource depletion and global warming, hydropower affects river systems. While river regulation helps to protect people and the environment from droughts and floods, the modification of a river’s flow pattern also affects fish and biodiversity. Statkraft’s aim is to maintain healthy river systems. Hence Statkraft has developed considerable expertise in taking care of environmental issues and implementation of mitigation measures. Examples of such measures include ecologically determined water flow, the construction of fish ladders, restocking and biotope protection.