Hydropower is a renewable energy resource because it uses the Earth's water cycle to generate electricity. Water evaporates from the Earth's surface, forms clouds, precipitates back to earth, and flows toward the ocean. The movement of water as it flows downstream creates kinetic energy that can be converted into electricity. 2700 TWH is generated every year. Hydropower supplies at least 50% of electricity production in 66 countries and at least 90% in 24 countries. Out of the total power generation installed capacity in India of 1,76,990 MW (June, 2011), hydro power contributes about 21.5% i.e. 38,106 MW. A capacity addition of 78,700 MW is envisaged from different conventional sources during 2007-2012 (the 11th Plan), which includes 15,627 MW from large hydro projects. In addition to this, a capacity addition of 1400 MW was envisaged from small hydro up to 25 MW station capacities. The total hydroelectric power potential in the country is assessed at about 150,000 MW, equivalent to 84,000 MW at 60% load factor. The potential of small hydro power projects is estimated at about 15,000 MW.
Potential in India
India is blessed with immense amount of hydro-electric potential and ranks 5th in terms of exploitable hydro-potential on global scenario. As per assessment made by CEA, India is endowed with economically exploitable hydro-power potential to the tune of 1 48 700 MW of installed capacity.
The energy of running water has been exploited for very many years. However, traditional approaches have suffered disadvantages due to environmental factors. For example:
- Building a dam across a river floods the land that would otherwise be available for use, alters the landscape, affects the local community that would have lived and worked on the flooded land, alters the character of the river, and prevents the free movement of fish.
- Diverting a river affects the nature of the countryside and does not lend itself to use on a large scale.
- Permanent complete or partial blockage of a river for energy conversion is adversely affected by variations in flow.
- Building large-scale hydro power plants can be polluting and damaging to surrounding ecosystems. Changing the course of waterways can also have a detrimental effect on human communities, agriculture and ecosystems further downstream.
- Hydro projects can also be unreliable during prolonged droughts and dry seasons when rivers dry up or reduce in volume.
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