Hydroelectricity

Did you know that a renewable energy source is the biggest electricity producer in NYS?

The mechanical energy from a fraction of the water headed towards Niagra Falls is converted into electrical  energy (around 2.4 million kW!) as it moves through the Lewiston Pump-Generating Plant. The system, which harnesses energy even when energy use is low, can serve as a model for engineers looking for more effective ways to store solar or wind energy.

One of the main arguments against solar/wind energy is that they may not be the most reliable sources. Although the solar energy that comes down during the day is more than enough to please consumption rates, what happens at night? Or after a week of clouds and rain? The same type of questions are asked of wind energy. As of right now, even the most efficient storage isn’t enough to harness enough excess energy for later use.

A popular suggestion is to combine solar and wind energy with pump-generators much like the one at Niagra Falls. Ideally, excess energy produced during peak times – during the day for solar and whenever it’s windiest for wind – would be used to pump water up an incline into a reservoir. Once the sun set or the wind stopped and the reserve of energy was used up, the water would be let down the incline, flow through generators that converted the mechanical energy into electricity, and into a ‘lake’ at the bottom to be used again the next day.

Although some say that this system wouldn’t work in areas without natural inclines, I say just build an incline! Solar farms are already being built in areas considerably out of everyone’s way, due to popular NIMBY sentiments, so what affect would an artificial lake and hill have?

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One Response to Hydroelectricity

  1. jessinawong says:

    The problem with building an incline probably has to deal with NIMBY sentiments as well. Someone has to put out the money to be able to produce an artificial lake and hill, and people tend to look at things short-term, so no one really wants to do that. What I’m interested in is how much energy each system produces. Would more energy be created when combining solar/wind energy with pump generators create more energy than each system on its own, or is it that the amount of energy created is more spaced out? The thought crossed my mind because I remember learning that you never get as much energy out of something as you put into something.

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