Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tying Hydropower to Other Energy Forms

When we hear the term “solar energy,” we usually think of heat from the sun=s rays which can be put to work. But there are other forms of solar energy. Just as hydropower is a form of solar energy, so too is wind power. In effect, the sun causes the wind to blow by heating air masses that rise, cool, and sink to earth again. Solar energy in some form is always at work -- in rays of sunlight, in air currents, and in the water cycle.

Solar energy, in its various forms, has the potential of adding significant amounts of power for our use. The solar energy that reaches our planet in a single week is greater than that contained in all of the earth’s remaining coal, oil, and gas resources. However, the best sites for collecting solar energy in various forms are often far removed from people, their homes, and work places. Building thousands of miles of new transmission lines would make development of the power too costly.

Because of the seasonal, daily, and even hourly changes in the weather, energy flow from the wind and sun is neither constant nor reliable. Peak production times do not always coincide with high power demand times. To depend on the variable wind and sun as main power sources would not be acceptable to most American lifestyles. Imagine having to wait for the wind to blow to cook a meal or for the sun to come out from behind a cloud to watch television!

As intermittent energy sources, solar power and wind power must be tied to major hydroelectric power systems to be both economical and feasible. Hydropower can serve as an instant backup and to meet peak demands.

Linking wind power and hydropower can add to the Nation’s supply of electrical energy. Large wind machines can be tied to existing hydroelectric power plants. Wind power can be used, when the wind is blowing, to reduce demands on hydropower. That would allow dams to save their water for later release to generate power in peak periods.

The benefits of solar power and wind power are many. The most valuable feature of all is the replenishing supply of these types of energy. As long as the sun shines and the wind blows, these resources are truly renewable.

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