How They Work:“How Hydropower Plants Work Part II”

The water in the reservoir is considered stored energy. When the gates open, the water flowing through the penstock becomes kinetic energy because it’s in motion.

The water in the reservoir is considered stored energy. When the gates open, the water flowing through the penstock becomes kinetic energy because it’s in motion.

The amount of electricity that is generated is determined by several factors. Two of those factors are the volume of water flow and the amount of hydraulic head. The head refers to the distance between the water surface and the turbines. As the head and flow increase, so does the electricity generated. The head is usually dependent upon the amount of water in the reservoir. Use of hydropower peaked in the mid-20th century, but the idea of using water for power generation goes back thousands of years. A hydropower plant is basically an oversized water wheel. More than 2,000 years ago, the Greeks are said to have used a water wheel for grinding wheat into flour. These ancient water wheels are like the turbines of today, spinning as a stream of water hits the blades. The gears of the wheel ground the wheat into flour.

There’s another type of hydropower plant, called the pumped-storage plant. In a conventional hydropower plant, the water from the reservoir flows through the plant, exits and is carried downstream. A pumped-storage plant has two reservoirs; Upper reservoir - Like a conventional hydropower plant, a dam creates a reservoir. The water in this reservoir flows through the hydropower plant to create electricity.  Lower reservoir - Water exiting the hydropower plant flows into a lower reservoir rather than re-entering the river and flowing downstream.  Using a reversible turbine, the plant can pump water back to the upper reservoir. This is done in off-peak hours. Essentially, the second reservoir refills the upper reservoir. By pumping water back to the upper reservoir, the plant has more water to generate electricity during periods of peak consumption.

The Generator is the heart of the hydroelectric power plant is the generator. Most hydropower plants have several of these generators.  The generator, as you might have guessed, generates the electricity. The basic process of generating electricity in this manner is to rotate a series of magnets inside coils of wire. This process moves electrons, which produces electrical current.  The Hoover Dam has a total of 17 generators, each of which can generate up to 133 megawatts. The total capacity of the Hoover Dam hydropower plant is 2,074 megawatts. Each generator is made of certain basic parts are; Shaft, Excitor, Rotor, Stator.

Normally, as the turbine turns, the excitor sends an electrical current to the rotor. The rotor is a series of large electromagnets that spins inside a tightly-wound coil of copper wire, called the stator. The magnetic field between the coil and the magnets creates an electric current. For example, in the Hoover Dam, a current of 16,500 amps moves from the generator to the transformer, where the current ramps up to 230,000 amps before being transmitted. (To be continued).

 

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