South Africa has a small mix of hydroelectricity stations and pumped storage schemes to contribute to alternate sources of power. Other hydropower is imported from dams in neighbouring countries. But how does hydroelectric power work?
At the most basic level, water is used to power machinery to make electricity which is fed into the grid. Turbines and generators at hydroelectric stations transform the kinetic energy of flowing water into electricity that can be used by our appliances.
According to USGS, most conventional hydroelectric plants are made up of four components:
- The dam: the station is located in a dam to control the flow of water.
- The turbine: the falling released from the dam pushes the water against the turbine blades. The turbine converts the kinetic energy of falling water into mechanical energy.
- The generator: this is connected to the turbine so that it spins as the turbine spins. This converts the turbines mechanical energy into electric energy.
- The transmission lines: these conduct the electricity from the hydropower plant to the grid and then homes.
While an alternate source to nuclear and coal, hydroelectricity isn’t entirely environmentally friendly. Dams have to be built which may require areas of land to be flooded. This can cause issues for wildlife, residential and farming areas.