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Hydro Power

Power derived from the force of moving water is hydro power.  Hydro power is generated by using electricity generators to extract energy from moving water.  In the past, hydro power was used for irrigation and operation of various machines.  For example, watermills, textile machines, and sawmills.  Now hydro poser is used to power other machinery at a distance from the water.

Various categories of hydro power include: damless hydro power, hydroelectricity, marine current power, ocean thermal energy, osmotic power, tidal power, tidal stream power, waterwheels and wave power.

Hydro electricity is the most commonly used form of hydro power.  It is also referred to as hydroelectric dams.  Hydro power is one of the main suppliers of electricity in the world.  Hydro electric power uses the force of moving water to produce electricity.  Hydro electricity is obtained from the potential energy stored in water at a certain height.  Waterfalls are used as a source of potential energy and are converted to electricity with the help of turbines.  Energy from it can be produced again and again.

Advantages of hydro electric power are:

  • hydro electric power can be far less expensive than electricity generated from other sources of energy;
  • hydro electric dams are able to handle seasonal and daily high peak loads;
  • a single generator can provide significant power;
  • harnessing power from ocean surface wave motion yields more energy than tides; and
  • small scale hydro or micro-hydro power is increasingly used as renewable energy source, particularly in remote areas where other power sources are not feasible.


Limitations on using hydro electricity are:

  • hydro electricity can be generated only at few places in hilly landscape by constructing dams over rivers;
  • cost of power plant is extremely high and power production is also high; and
  • hydro dams utilize kinetic energy of flowing water or potential energy of water stored only at a height.


In the U.S., an owner of a qualified hydroelectric facility is entitled to receive payments from government.  The Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorizes incentive payments during the applicable incentive period to the owner or operator of a hydroelectric facility.  “The Secretary shall make incentive payments to the owners or operators of hydroelectric facilities at existing dams to be used to make capital improvements in the facilities that are directly related to improving the efficiency of such facilities by at least 3 percent”[i].

A qualified hydroelectric facility receives payments for a period of 10 fiscal years.  In order to receive an incentive, the owner of a qualified hydroelectric facility must make an application to the Secretary of energy.  The application must establish that the applicant is eligible to receive payment which satisfies such other requirements as the Secretary deems necessary.

Only a qualified hydroelectric facility is entitled to receive an incentive.  Qualified hydroelectric facility means “a turbine or other generating device owned or solely operated by a non-Federal entity which generates hydroelectric energy for sale and which is added to an existing dam or conduit”[ii].

The International Hydro power Association (IHA), which was formed under the sponsorship of UNESCO in 1995, addresses the role of hydro power in meeting the world’s growing water and energy needs as a clean, renewable, and sustainable technology.  IHA is a non-governmental, mutual association of organizations and individuals.  Its membership is open to all those involved in hydro power.

The purpose of IHA is to advance sustainable hydro power’s role in meeting the world’s water and energy.

The IHA attains the goal by:

  • championing continuous improvement and sustainable practices;
  • building consensus through strong partnerships with other stakeholders; and
  • driving initiatives to increase the contribution of renewables, especially hydro power.


[i] 42 USCS § 15882.

[ii] 42 USCS § 15881.

Inside Hydro Power