How much could your business save?Find out now!
Or, you can call us on:0800 411 8830

Renewable energy sources: what is hydropower?


Energy generated by water (hydropower) has been used as a form of power for thousands of years. But the use of hydropower to generate electricity has been relatively recent.

As you can see from the Energy Timeline infographic the use of renewable energy such as solarwind and water power goes back thousands of years. Water power is the most widely used form of renewable energy and is one of the cheapest forms of renewable power, used in over 150 countries.

The Greeks, Romans and Chinese used hydropower – the earliest vertical water pump was developed in Greece in around 100AD. The Greeks used it for grinding grain and pumping water.

At the start of the British Industrial Revolution, water was used for a variety of inventions including Richard Arkwright’s water frame, a type of spinning machine used in the textile industry.

Hydroelectric power

The first hydroelectric power station was built at Cragside in Northumberland in 1878 by William Armstrong. It was used to power a single lamp.

Just a few years later in 1881 the massive falls at Niagra were used to generate electricity and powered the city lights close by. A year later the world’s first hydroelectric plant began operating on the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin, USA.

Generating electricity using water

There are several ways of using water to generate electricity – dams, pumped storage, rivers and tidal.

Most hydro projects use the power created by damming rivers to generate electricity. The power generated depends on the difference in height between the source and the water’s outflow.

The largest hydroelectric dam in the world is the Three Gorges Dam in China, which generates 22,500MW.

An English company, Gilbert Gilkes and Gordon Ltd, based in Kendal in the Lake District, has been making hydro turbines for longer than any other company in the world: it has been under the same basic ownership since 1881.

Pumped storage is generally used to generate electricity during peak demand. It involves moving large volumes of water between reservoirs at different levels. When demand is low the excess energy is used to pump the water back up to the higher reservoir. Some argue that this technology offers a solution to the problem of storage of renewable energy.

Small hydroelectric stations are often placed on rivers using the power of water from upstream. A hydropower station has been installed on the Thames in Berkshire and generates power for Windsor Castle.

Tidal power, as the name suggests, uses the tides to generate electricity. This form of hydropower is relatively new and not widely used. But it has the potential to be a predictable form of energy generation for the future. While wind and solar rely on the elements to generate electricity, tides are predictable – they happen every day come what may. However, its use depends on the tidal range and can be an expensive form of hydropower.

Global hydroelectric capacity

Currently hydropower provides 16% of the world’s electricity and is used in both developed and developing countries around the globe.

A number of countries rely on hydroelectricity for 90% of their power including Norway, Canada and Brazil and once installed hydropower plants have a lifespan of around 100 years.

Business electricity

Few businesses have the luxury of being able to make use of water power to generate electricity and lower their bills – although Derby City Council’s main council building, located next to the River Derwent, is using the electricity generated from a hydroelectric power unit to lower their electricity bills.

The easiest way to reduce your fixed business costs is to compare prices using a comparison service such as SwitchMyBusiness.com: we have already helped thousands of UK businesses save up to 70% on their energy bills. For a quick quote simply complete the form to the top right of this page or call 0800 411 8830.

Related Articles

the week's energy news

The Week’s Top Energy News – 02/12/2016

The Christmas season has well and truly begun and, in true business style, you’ll either be incredibly b...

Read More
how to motivate your team

21 easy ways to motivate your team

Being a manager is tough, and understanding how to motivate staff isn’t necessarily straight forward. It...

Read More
small business santa

Could you win our small business Santa competition?

We don’t know about you but we are feeling very Christmassy right now. Carols on the stereo, mince pies for ...

Read More
Excellent, 9.5 / 10

Fixed up in no time!

"I was contacted by Jonathan Burgess after making an inquiry on line, who was very informative in finding me the best deal for my business. There was no pressure selling,only information given to assist me in making an informed decision. There was ample opportunity during the process to question or pull out if need be. Everything was made clear,and would definitely recommend others using the service."

This review was posted by john kril on the 05th of September 2016

Brilliant Service

"I was contacted by Aaron Gallagher after visiting SwitchMyBusiness.com. He was very helpful and knew a lot about the different contracts available but did not push me into an instant decision. Once our Directors had decided on the contract they wanted I called Aaron on his direct line and arranged our new contract. Aaron was at all times friendly and professional, completely different to other companies who contacted me about our renewal who were arrogant and pushy. Would recommend SwitchMyBusiness to anybody who is looking to switch their energy."

This review was posted by Debbie on the 08th of September 2016

First Class Service

"I spoke with Mark Weeks today to get quotes for my business energy and he was extremely helpful. He talked me through the process clearly and also got me better prices than I could have done myself. Comparison sites are just so complicated and he did all the "leg work" for me. Very pleased with his assistance and would recommend SwitchmyBusiness to any of my friends and business acquaintances."

This review was posted by Debbie Andrew on the 08th of September 2016

Excellent

"Jonathan Burgess rang me back straight away and took me through my business switch. Polite thorough and easy to understand. Highly recommend to anyone looking to save money and switch business energy accounts. Thank you."

This review was posted by Suzanne Richmond on the 09th of September 2016

Happy

"Jonathan Burgess did a great job of helping me through switching my business with both gas and electric. He was very thorough ,clear spoken and a pleasure to speak to today. I would recommend anyone to use this service"

This review was posted by Louise holman on the 09th of September 2016