Types of hydroelectric power: How do the dam things work?

Hydroelectricity, or ‘hydro’, is generated from the energy in the water cycle of the earth. The sun evaporates water on the surface of the earth, causing it to rise up to form clouds. Clouds eventually form droplets, which then rain, snow, or hail down to the surface. Water on the surface flows downhill until it evaporates again. During this time it may become trapped in glaciers, lakes, ponds, puddles, or the ocean. Driven by the sun, the water cycle is a truly renewable resource.

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Progress and potential of renewable energy

The intent of this publication is an ongoing investigation of the progress and potential of renewable energy in our world. Our goal is to collect the best writing and news on the subject of renewable energy projects and policies. We have observed that humanity is innovating rapidly as the energy security of the future becomes a global priority. Current trends indicate that the age of coal will end before we run out of coal.

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Reservoir hydro resources on the Canadian prairies

We have been captivated for a long time by the intriguing possibilities inherent in combining Manitoba’s extensive hydro resources with Saskatchewan’s high-quality wind power. A number of other groups in Saskatchewan have been lobbying for greater interconnection between the two power grids to take advantage of the natural synergy that exists between wind power and reservoir-based hydro power.

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Solar Thermal Power

Solar thermal power generation presents a unique opportunity among renewable technologies today. It is well-understood. Prototypes and commercial power plants of this sort exist. It has capabilities for both baseload and peak-matching power generation. It is affordable in locations with lots of sunlight. Costs are in the range 10-15¢/kWh currently, with great potential for the future.

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Feed-In Tariff: Government Encouraging The Market

The feed-in tariff is a well known policy mechanism in the area of electricity generation. It has been applied in many countries with the intent of encouraging the development of renewable power generation. Such a policy typically involves guaranteeing to desired types of generation both subsidized long term prices for electricity and guaranteed grid access. This policy has been well utilized notably in Germany and Spain, where residents have seen very stable electricity prices coupled with tremendous growth of the renewable energy sector of their economies.

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Leverage hydro to use wind

When wind isn’t blowing hard, use a dispatchable source such as hydro to produce power. Let’s assume that we have 150 MW of hydro on hand to cover the Centennial Wind Farm when the wind isn’t blowing. If we look at entire year of production, we can expect that about 42.4% of all energy will have come from the wind, and that the remaining 57.6% of the energy would have come from the hydro. What is necessary for a system like this to work is to have enough water behind the hydro dam that it can cover a fairly long spell of low winds. This could be as long as several days. If our hydro reservoir is big enough to cover that time, we should be able to cover the intermittent nature of the wind for the whole year. If it isn’t big enough, we will have to get our power from elsewhere. Perhaps importing it from neighboring grids or by using another source such as natural gas.

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Reliable power rather than baseload

What people really want is reliable power. We don’t want to end up freezing in the dark. Electricity is important enough to our society that our energy security is of great importance to us. This is a fundamental issue that all technically advanced nations have to face.
It would be a mistake to equate baseload with reliable. Baseload power sources still have to turn off sometimes. In some cases, the downtimes for the big thermal plants such as nuclear and coal can be several percent of their lifetimes. If our power grid were based off of only baseload sources of this type we might see rolling blackouts now and then unless we built extra power plants to cover the downtime.

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Electricity Grid: Key Terms and Definitions

In the most general sense, we are talking about moving power from one place to another. The electric grid accomplishes this by having power lines between generation stations and demand locations such as homes and businesses. Some general rules apply to this sort of technology. The more power you have to move, the more expensive it will be to build the infrastructure to do it. The further you have to move the power, the more energy losses you are going to have in doing so. These rules apply in general, but the specifics of a problem will dictate what sort of solution is applied.

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Incentives to build renewable in Saskatchewan

We proposed a feed-in tariff for renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, and hydro power. What this means is basically that people or companies who produced power from these sources would be paid more for their electricity than non-renewable providers. See our proposal for more details about the practicality and effectiveness of a feed-in tariff as well as more detail on tailoring the solution for Saskatchewan. The intent of this policy mechanism is to stimulate an increase in private investment into these technologies.

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Feed-In Tariff Proposal for Saskatchewan

A Feed-in-Tariff is a policy mechanism designed to provide an incentive for development of a desired type. Typical implementations of feed-in-tariffs for power generation usually involve guaranteed long term prices for electricity generated and guaranteed grid access. This means that if a person or company builds this type of desired generation, they are guaranteed to be able to sell their power, and guaranteed a minimum price for their power.

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Energy Storage

Energy storage is the saving some form of energy for later use. Energy is critical to every accomplishment of humans. This energy can take many forms. Some examples include potential, kinetic, chemical, and nuclear energy.

Energy storage is critical to the stable function of a power grid. Inevitably, power stations have to be serviced or have failures. Even failures that are a fraction of a second can be disastrous for certain applications, such as monitoring systems for heavy machinery, computers, and other sensitive electronics. Stability of power is a key factor in the design of an effective power grid. Stability requires that there be backup systems in place in case of a baseline power failure. Energy storage is required for most backup systems to be effective.

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Hydroelectricity

Hydroelectric power generation is the act of using moving water to generate power. Historically this was done using paddle wheels in streams to turn grinding stones for making grain flour. Today, most hydroelectric dams are of a larger scale. A hydro dam location is chosen because it has a large amount of flowing water that can exit the dam at a much lower height than it was taken at. As in a waterfall, the waters falling through the dam generators speed up and drive turbines, generating power.

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