Hydro-power has been used since the Greek Empire, more than 2,000 years ago. They used it to power wheels for milling grain.
Starting back in the 1700's getting power from water was a good source. A french man by the name of Bernard Forest de Belidor wrote an article called "Architecture Hydraulique". This Article was four-volumes of a description of Vertical and Horizontal axis machines. One that could harvest Water Power. By the 1800's we were using Water turbines to harvest some power needs. Including Lights, street lighting and store front. Even some theater lighting was achieved in Grand Rapids Michigan. Also during that time Power for lights were being provided for New York and Niagara Falls. Now this lighting was using Direct-current technology. Different than we use today.
In 2003 it was calculated we use about 10% of Hydro-power for our electricity. Compared to the 1920's when we used 25% and in the 1940's we used 40% of Hydro-power. What happened?
There are many suggested reason for this. In the 1940's we went into an Industrial/Modern Era. Using more coal and oil for our electrical needs. This made the cost of electric to be more affordable. Also some of the disadvantages like, Ecosystem damage caused by damming the water. Changes in the amount of flow due to Droughts, Methane emissions which our reservoirs produced was more than what a natural forest decay produced. Methane is a Greenhouse gas which is not good for the environment in large amounts. The damming also caused a decrease in fish population. Salmon was one that was effected, the fish could not swim upstream to spawn. Even the Oxygen that was taken from the water during the Energy process and the heat being released was causing some changes in the aquatic populations.
The locating of People caused problems also. Just in 2008 we relocated 40-80 million people worldwide just due to Dam construction. In most case no financial compensation was given.
Although those are some valid reasons, Hydro-power is still a healthy choice for our power needs. Let's take a look at why. there is no lead time for site studies as in Fossil-fulled combustion turbines. Hydroelectricity does not cause Flue gas emissions such as, Sulfur dioxide, nitric oxidem, carbon monoxide, dust and no Mercury( as in the coal usage).T here is no Nuclear waste nor the chance of a nuclear leak. Compared to wind turbine, hydroelectric it is more reliable. If the hydro-plant has a storage area, it will be able to supply more power when needed. Most of all the cost is not effected by the rising cost of Natural gas, Coal and Oil and we do not have a import it! Just think the cost of building just one pant, Three Gorges Dam will be paid off in about 5 to 8 years, if full power from it is used. You can not say that about our other energy sources.
We are planing a trip to Niagara Falls next month. This subject came up in my mind. Remembering years ago when I went and recalling the power aspect of it. Oh the Power of Water. I recently learned that we harvest about 49% Hydro-power. The US has over 2.000 Hydroelectric power plants, this data was from a 2010 update. I think this is good and we should still be working toward more Healthier Renewable electricity. Oh the Power of water!