Monday, October 22, 2012

How a Hydropower Plant Works

A typical hydropower plant is a system with three parts:
  • a power plant where the electricity is produced;
  • a dam that can be opened or closed to control water flow; and
  • a reservoir (artificial lake) where water can be stored.
To generate electricity, a dam opens its gates to allow water from the reservoir above to flow down through large tubes called penstocks. At the bottom of the penstocks, the fast-moving water spins the blades of turbines. The turbines are connected to generators to produce electricity. The electricity is then transported via huge transmission lines to a local utility company.
  1. Water in a reservoir behind a hydropower dam flows through an intake screen, which filters out large debris, but allows fish to pass through.
  2. The water travels through a large pipe, called a penstock.
  3. The force of the water spins a turbine at a low speed, allowing fish to pass through unharmed.
  4. Inside the generator, the shaft spins coils of copper wire inside a ring of magnets. This creates an electric field, producing electricity.
  5. Electricity is sent to a switchyard, where a transformer increases the voltage, allowing it to travel through the electric grid.
  6. Water flows out of the penstock into the downstream river.

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