Hydroelectric power is an awesome force. Clean (relatively) and renewable, hydroelectric power is a major source of electricity for people around the world. Produced by the power and force of water impeded by dams, the development of hydro power was an important scientific achievement of the modern world. There are many fun and interesting facts about hydroelectric power and many resources for kids and students who might want to learn more about this important and interesting topic.
Hydroelectric Power is a Major Source of the World's Energy
According to data compiled by National Geographic magazine, the world's largest producers of hydroelectric power are China, Canada, Brazil, the United States and Russia. Electricity produced via hydroelectric plants accounts for almost one-fifth of the electricity consumed in the world. China's Three Gorges Dam is one of the world's largest hydroelectric power plants, according to National Geographic; the largest in the United States is the Grand Coulee Dam in the state of Washington.
There is More Than One Kind of Hydroelectric Power
The U.S. Energy Information Administration has compiled a variety of fun facts about hydroelectric power for kids on its website (eia.doe.gov). One of the more interesting facts is that there are multiple types of hydroelectric power. Most hydroelectric power is produced by water flowing through dams and spinning turbines, but special contraptions deployed in the ocean can also make electricity out of the motion of the ocean's waves. Also, in some areas, the difference in temperature between water on the surface of the ocean that has been warmed by the sun and colder water below can be harnessed to produce an electrical current, though, this system has yet to see any large-scale applications.
Hydropower is Clean, but has Environmental Impacts
Hydropower doesn't immediately result in the emission of harmful gases like the burning of fossil fuels does, but hydropower does have environmental impacts, nonetheless, according the EIA. Dams built on rivers to generate electricity may cause changes in the temperature and other characteristics of the water below the dam. Sometimes these changes have negative effects on plants and animals that live in and along the river below the dam. Also, the EIA points out, harmful greenhouse gases, such as methane and carbon dioxide, can build up in the water in reservoirs. When these gases are released they may be equivalent to the amount of the same gases created by burning coal or oil, says the EIA.
Other Hydropower Facts
Kids Can Travel (kidscantravel.com) has collected some fun facts about hydroelectric power on its website. For example, Kids Can Travel says hydropower has been used since the times of the ancient Egyptians who used the energy of flowing water to turn wheels to grind grains as early as 250 B.C. Also, according to Kids Can Travel, the word "hydropower" comes from the Greek word for water: "hudor." Hydropower is also the cheapest way to produce electricity.