20 Facts About Hydropower You Never Knew

Let’s play a little fun game. You are about to test your knowledge of facts about hydropower. You want to ascertain now if you knew these facts I’m about to tell you.

You may never be sure of the facts about hydropower that you knew and the ones that you didn’t if you don’t go through your archives now.

So, drumroll…

Pick up a piece of paper, your tablet, phone, or Mac. You can simply use your computer. Anything to write on. Now, quickly think about these questions and jot down short answers:

  • What is hydropower?
  • What are the advantages of hydropower that you know? This can be 2 or 3 points.
  • Is there any difference between hydropower and hydroelectricity?
  • If yes, list quickly.
  • what is the watt capacity of the largest hydroelectricity power station?
  • Does all hydropower have a dam?
  • Are there any drawbacks of hydropower? If yes, list quickly.

This article has more fun facts about hydropower, but this is a short fun game, remember? Now, keep your game sheet aside. I will tell you how to use it later in this article. For now, let’s read along.

What is Hydropower?

Hydropower is simply the conversion of flowing water into energy. It is a renewable energy because water energy is constantly reused. It is not limited, unlike coal and gas.

In short, hydropower harnesses the energy in running water!

This could be for electricity, mechanical use like running a mill, or irrigation. The hydropower energy which is converted to electrical energy now becomes hydroelectricity. Hydropower is one of the oldest renewable energy sources for generating hydroelectricity.

Today, hydropower is the largest source of renewable electricity in the U.S. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) in 2018, hydropower accounted for about seven percent of overall U.S. electricity generation.

There are two main sources of hydropower – dams and run-offs from rivers.

How Hydropower Works

  1. Water propels through turbines
  2. The turbine changes the kinetic energy into mechanical energy.
  3. Next, a generator converts mechanical energy into electrical energy.

Most often, a reservoir is created behind a dam. A dam diverts and channels water into a specific useful place. This trapped water is allowed to escape through pipes called penstocks. When the water flows through the pipes, the pressure or force turns a turbine that is linked to a generator. And, of course, we know that generators produce electricity.

Facts About Hydropower You Never Knew

Did you know that…

  • Humans have been using hydropower for over 5000 years?
  • Do hydropower stations help with flood control?
  • Hydroelectric dams use fish ladders and elevators for fish migration?
  • Hydropower is cost-effective?
  • Hydroelectricity accounts for around 7% of all power generated in the United States?
  • Norway’s energy supply comes almost entirely from hydropower?
  • Some hydroelectric power plants are dam-less?
  • The largest hydropower plant is in Kela Solar Power Plant China?
  • There are Mini and Micro Hydropower that are so small that they Power a Single Home?
  • Hydropower Can Harm the Environment?
  • Hydropower stations produce no air pollution or toxic byproducts?
  • Hydropower Gives you lower energy bills than most energy resources?
  • Hydropower provides half of the electricity from all renewable sources?
  • Hydropower plants can operate with very little maintenance?
  • Many hydropower dams are used for multiple purposes?
  • Hydropower is the single largest renewable energy source?
  • British-American engineer James Francis developed the first modern water turbine?
  • Hydropowers can produce electricity Only as Long as There’s Water in the Reservoir?
  • The dam gates can be opened and closed to control when the electricity is made?
  • Only about 3% of dams in the United States are for hydropower?

1. Humans have Been using Hydropower for over 5000 Years

A primary one among the facts of hydropower is that humans have used using water to create power from the first civilizations to power machinery. large water wheels were placed in rivers. The river would push the wheel around. The wheel is connected to a piece of machinery that can move. When the wheel turns, a part of the machinery moves, milling the grain.

The ancient Greeks used hydropower (water wheels), to crush grains into flour. With pieces of evidence of water-powered mills and irrigation systems found in ancient Greece, Rome, and China.

These were one of the first uses of hydro energy. The use of hydropower to create electricity came only in 1880.

2. Hydropower Helps with Flood Control

Fun facts about hydropower 2 – Hydropower can also prevent flooding by regulating the flow of water in rivers. This is possible because hydropower reservoirs accumulate large volumes of water. Flood management is a crucial part of hydropower plants.

The dam halts the force and flow of water into the river thus reducing the risk of floods, especially in areas prone to flooding.

3. Hydroelectric Dams use Fish Ladders and Elevators for Fish Migration

20 Facts about Hydropower
source: PRODYOGI

You can’t count the facts about hydropower without counting this – Yearly, an uncountable amount of fish migrates to freshwater during the breeding season to breeding grounds. Hydropower construction often obstructs their journey upstream. Many times, the fish are injured or killed.

Therefore, fish ladders and fish elevators are built at the dam to assist these creatures travel freely and get past the hydropower station.

Agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Division have initiated many passes to address fish migration issues.

Some examples include:

  • Fish lifts or locks
  • Pool-type fish passes
  • Collection and transportation facilities
  • Denil fish passes
  • Nature-like bypass channels

4. Hydropower is cost-effective

Hydropower plants are cost-effective for a nation or government because they don’t require limited resources such as fuel or coal to operate. Water is unlimited and constantly available.

5. Hydroelectricity Accounts for Around 7% of all Power Generated in the United States

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), hydropower electricity accounts for about 7% of all power generated in the United States and about half of all renewable energy, while Electricity.gov reported that Washington received more than 70% of its energy from hydropower in 2015.

6. Norway’s Energy Supply Comes Almost Entirely from Hydropower

Sixth among the facts about hydropower – Norway is the 6th biggest producer of hydropower.

Its 20 hydropower facilities generate nearly all of the country’s electricity.

This can be attributed to Norway’s many valleys and rivers that are perfect for hydropower. They store water in rainy seasons to make up for the low water supply in winter.

It is so effective that one hydropower plant produces enough electricity to run Oslo its capital city for a year.

7. Some Hydroelectric Power Plants are Dam-less

Another mindblowing one among the many facts about hydropower is that some hydroelectric power plants are Dam-less.

Small hydropower plants do not use dams. Sometimes, they are placed next to irrigation canals in replacement of dams. This provides the force it takes to run the hydropower plant. Even ocean waves and tidal currents rivers are used in place of dams.

Hydropower is not a dam but it is using any water current to produce energy.

These fast-flowing waters create energy just like the water from a dam. Especially in rainfall, thus creating hydropower.

8. The Largest Hydropower Plant is the Kela Solar Power Plant

China-based Yalong River Hydropower Development (Yalong Hydro) constructed the Kela Solar Power Plant, the world’s largest combined hydropower and solar power plant.

The station is on the Yalong River in Sichuan province. It has a total capacity of 2.13 million kilowatts, with 850,000 kilowatts of solar power and 1.28 million kilowatts of hydropower.

9. There are Mini and Micro Hydropower that can Power a Single Home

20 Facts about Hydropower
credit: SolarEmpower

Hydropower plants mustn’t be gigantic. They mustn’t power entire cities. It can be a little construction in the lake outside your home or a diversion from a river near your farm. They can range in size from small installations that can power a single home.

10. Hydropower Can Harm the Environment

Hydropower can affect the environment most especially biodiversity; by killing marine animals during migration, affecting their migration pattern, and it can also cause low amounts of dissolved oxygen in the water. This happens mostly when a river is dammed.

11. Hydropower Produces No Air Pollution or Toxic Byproducts during Operation

When power is generated when flowing water spins a wheel or turbine, it produces no air pollution. Hydropower is also a renewable energy source.

12. Hydropower Gives You Lower Energy Bills than Most Energy Resources

Hydropower costs less than most energy sources even clean energy sources. The low cost of continuous production is directly proportional to the low cost during delivery. It is a fact that states in the U.S. that get most of their electricity from hydropower have lower energy bills than the states that do not for instance Idaho.

13. Hydropower Provides Half of the Electricity From all Renewable Sources

Around 7% of the electricity produced in the United States and about 50% of all renewable energy comes from hydroelectricity reports the Energy Information Administration.

14. Hydropower Plants can Operate with Very Little Maintenance

Hydropower facilities are a very dependable form of renewable energy since they may run for decades or even centuries with very little upkeep.

15. Many Hydropower Dams are Used for Multiple Purposes

Many hydropower dams are used for multiple purposes. Some of which include:

  • Industrial Water Use
  • Providing electricity
  • Mitigate drought impacts
  • Water for homes
  • Irrigation
  • Transportation services
  • Flood Control
  • Recreational benefits
  • Inland navigation

16. The Single Largest Renewable Energy Source

Hydropower accounts for over 60% of all renewable electricity production. Approximately 16 percent of all electricity is generated by the hydropower industry.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says that hydropower provides roughly one-third of the global capacity for flexible energy supply and has the potential to deliver even more in its 2021 Hydropower Special Market Report.

Hydropower produces no air pollution.

17. British-American Engineer James Francis Developed the First Modern Water Turbine

Who invented hydropower?

Several decades after British-American engineer James Francis created the first contemporary water turbine, hydropower started being used as a source of electricity in the late 19th century. Along the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin, the first hydroelectric power plant in the world started operating in 1882.

18. Hydropower Stations can Produce Electricity Only as Long as There’s Water in the Reservoir

Electricity can be produced only as long as there is enough water. This means that energy can be available 24 hours a day but can be interrupted if the water reduces beyond the requirement.

When this happens, the reservoir needs time to fill up. Countries with water scarcity can follow Norway’s strategy of battling water scarcity for their dams.

19. The Dam Gates Can be Opened and Closed to Control When Electricity is Made

Did you know that the dam gates can be opened and closed to regulate the production of electricity? It can regulate when electricity is produced and the amount of electricity that is produced.

This can be achieved by controlling how much water flows. Thus, the supply of energy can meet the changing demand.

20. Most Dams Are Not for Hydropower Purposes

Many people think dams are built for hydropower projects alone. However, one of the facts about hydropower is that most of them are not for producing electricity at all. The Foundation for Water & Energy Education writes among all the dams in the United States, only about 3% of them are for hydropower. The others are primarily used for other purposes.


The last fact about hydropower – Hydropower is critical to the future of sustainable energy. The power of the hydropower industry has not been harnessed for the decarbonization of our planet. Now, take your game sheet and score yourself. Write your score in the comments. As our winner, you will get a free celebratory birthday flier on your next birthday. Courtesy from Environmentgo.


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Precious Okafor is a digital marketer and online entrepreneur that got into the online space in 2017 and since then have developed skills in content creation, copywriting and online marketing. He is also a Green activist and hence his role in publishing articles for EnvironmentGo

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