According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. receives 7 per cent of its power from hydroelectric sources. Hydroelectric power generates electricity using flowing water. As water flows through a hydroelectric plant, the water turns a turbine, which generates electricity. While large-scale hydroelectric power is only available where flowing water of sufficient power exists, it offers many benefits.
Unlike other renewable energy sources like wind and solar power, hydroelectric power offers generally consistent power generation. Wind power cannot generate energy without wind, and solar power requires the sun to be shining. Therefore, both these technologies require more reliable power generation to bridge any gaps in service. Hydroelectric power, however, consistently generates energy as long as the dam's reservoir has water, and the plant's engineers can increase or decrease the amount of energy generated by adjusting the amount of water flowing through the turbines.
Most of the costs of hydroelectric power plants are in the initial construction of the dam and the plant. Once a dam is built, the natural force of the water generates the energy, making hydroelectric power cheap to generate. Water itself is essentially free, and the price of hydroelectric power is therefore not dependent on market fluctuations like oil, coal and other fossil fuels.
Water as a resource offers many benefits over other energy sources. Water is renewable, and hydroelectric plants ultimately need only the sun to continue the water cycle of evaporation and precipitation in order to have sufficient resources. Water also is a domestic resource, which allows the United States to generate power without relying on foreign markets for oil.
Because hydroelectric power generates energy from the movement of water, it creates no pollutants. While coal and fuel oil burning plants release pollution into the atmosphere and nuclear power leaves radioactive waste, hydroelectric plants have no pollutants, and even the water used to turn the turbine is unaffected.
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