Electricity Fuel Source Technical Papers
Hydropower Fast Facts
- Hydro is the world’s most important source of renewable energy by quantity.
- Globally, hydro power is used for electricity generation in over 150 countries, Global hydro generation of electricity was 16 per cent in 2010.
- Hydro power is a low emitting form of generation and has the potential to play a significant role in addressing climate change due to its negligible greenhouse gas emissions.
Canadian Hydro Power Process
- Hydropower, or hydroelectricity, is a renewable source of energy produced by the falling or moving of water. The movement of water as it flows downstream creates kinetic energy (available energy in moving water is determined by its flow or fall) that can be converted into electricity. A hydroelectric power plant converts this energy into electricity by forcing water, often held at a dam, through a hydraulic turbine that is connected to an electricity generator.
- The amount of electricity a hydro facility is able to produce depends on the amount of water which passes through the turbine and the height from which the water falls, known as the volume of water flow and the head respectively.
- Dams are used in some hydropower facilities to increase the head of a waterfall (creating more electricity).
- There are different types of turbines, each chosen to effectively and efficiently convert water flow into electricity dependant on the ‘head’.
- The Kalpan is a propeller type turbine with adjustable blades allowing for efficient power production in low head applications.
- The Pelton is used for higher head sites.
- The Francis Turbine is the most common turbine used and operates in a head range of ten meters to hundreds of meters.
- Reservoirs which are lakes that are created when a dam is built across waters, is stored behind the dam on what used to be dry land.
- Run-of-river facilities use the flow of the river without modification to produce electricity. The amount of electricity produced is dependent on the flow of the river. In the spring when the snow has melted, the power production is higher compared to the winter when the river is frozen and the power is low.
- Storage hydropower uses a reservoir to store water for future energy use. Hydropower storage facility can store water for future electricity requirements during periods of low demand and can instantly release more water during peaks of increased electricity demand.
- Pumped storage uses excess electrical energy to pump water uphill to a storage reservoir. During periods of energy demand, the water is released and converted back into electrical energy at the hydro facility.
Hydro Power in Canada
- Hydropower produced 63 percent of Canada’s electricity production in 2010.
- Canada is the world’s second largest hydropower producer, generating 363 TWh/year.
- Every province with the exception of Prince Edward Island produces hydropower to varying degrees.
- There is 163,173 megawatts of undeveloped hydro potential in Canada.1
Benefits of Hydropower
- Hydropower is a renewable source of energy which uses the power of flowing water to create electricity without solid waste or depletion.
- Hydropower’s flexible storage capability and operational flexibility allows the facilities to automatically respond to fluctuating electricity demands. Hydropower’s storage capability supports the operation of wind and solar energy.
- Hydropower plants have a life span between 50 to 100 years with low operational and maintenance costs.
- Hydropower contributes to freshwater storage from their ability to harvest rain fall, supplying fresh water for drinking and irrigation. This freshwater storage protects aquifers from depletion and reduces our vulnerability to floods and droughts.
Challenges to Development
- First Nations – Many hydropower projects in Canada are developed in remote communities, including those of Aboriginal Peoples. These hydropower projects have the potential to affect surrounding ecosystems, lifestyle, and activities of these communities.
- Local Communities – The development of hydropower projects including infrastructure and reservoir development have an impact on local communities. The projects may displace communities, affect outdoor recreational activities due to reduced public access and affect travel routes. The development of hydropower plants will also create local physical pollution (i.e. industrial structures in natural settings) in close proximity to construction routes.
- There is a challenge to ensuring that industrial developments are minimally intrusive as possible.
However, there is an opportunity to ensure that local communities reap benefits through such developments, which mainly concern an improved quality of living, employment growth, and long term revenues sustained through business developments.
- Water Quality and Fisheries – Water quality is affected from the change in upstream water temperature to downstream water temperature. High pressure hydropower often changes the natural variation of water in a watercourse. Changes in the water level can lead to erosion over the long term. These altered conditions can affect the habitat and growth rate of fisheries in addition to other species. The construction of a dam may affect fish habitat through water levels, impede the natural flow of sediments and affect water quantity.
- Federal and Provincial Regulation Process – The federal EA process in combination with provincial processes represent a major obstacle to the development of new hydro projects. There is an inadequate coordination of the EA process between federal and provincial jurisdictions.
- Environmental Impacts – There are environmental challenges and consideration associated with hydropower development. Hydropower often requires the use of dams, which can affect the flow of rivers, altering ecosystems and affecting the wildlife in surrounding areas. The ability for ecosystems to adapt to negative impacts that may arise from the changes in a habitat is of concern to the construction of new hydropower facilities.
- Study of Hydropower Potential in Canada, EEM, 2006.