Hydropower: Meaning, Advantages and Disadvantages

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Hydropower: Meaning, Advantages and Disadvantages

What is Hydropower?

Hydropower is energy that comes from moving water. Hydropower can harness the energy in water that is already moving – for instance in rivers and waterfalls, or the waves of the sea.

Alternatively, hydropower can be generated using artificially created dams and controlling the motion of water through the dam.

However it is generated, though, hydropower is always a type of kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is energy that derives from some kind of motion.

The ‘hydro’ part of the word ‘hydropower’ comes from the Greek word for ‘water’. Because hydropower usually involves converting the motion of water into electrical energy, you may hear hydropower called by the alternative name of ‘hydroelectric energy’.

India is among the few nations, that has immensely favorable geographical condition for Hydropower generation. India is already among the top 10 hydroelectric power generators in the world.

Advantages of Hydropower.

Hydropower is a natural form of energy that harnesses the sea’s tides or the motion of rivers. The advantages of Hydropower are summarized below:

1. Environmentally friendly. Most forms of hydropower are very environmentally friendly. They do not release the large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere that fossil fuels do when they are burned.

2. Recyclable waste products. The water that runs off from a hydroelectric dam can, once it has been harnessed for its energy, be used for other useful purposes such as irrigation of farmland. Hence, hydropower is a renewable form of energy i.e., using hydropower does not deplete the earth’s natural resources.

3. Traditional. Hydropower has been around for centuries. An early form of hydropower, for instance, is the water-mill, which used the motion of a nearby river to turn a mill that grinds corn.

4. Almost inexhaustible source. There will always be water available to draw power from, so this is a power source that we can rely on. For instance, the tide will always continue moving in and out, and rivers will keep on moving across the land. Unlike fossil fuels, which are available in limited quantities (which will eventually run out), hydropower is a sustainable form of energy from an inexhaustible energy source.

5. Reliable and Durable. Hydropower is pretty reliable: once the hydropower plant is set up, it can produce electrical energy at a constant rate. It is a brilliant way of using the earth’s natural resources: waterfalls, rivers and tides.

6. Integrated into community life. Hydroelectric dams provide reservoirs of water that can be used for leisure activities such as sailing.

7. Energy can be stored. Hydroelectric plants always have facilities for storing energy. So, the community will always have some energy to fall back on if necessary.

8. Decreased dependency. Hydropower is a domestic source of energy: i.e. it is produced by a particular country or community, for that very same country or community. Using hydropower thus frees communities from dependence on other nations for their energy needs.

9. Innovative: Hydropower production demonstrates the innovation of human engineering.

Disadvantages of Hydropower.

1. High installation & Maintenance costs. Building a hydroelectric dam is very expensive, as specialized equipment and high levels of engineering skill are needed. Dams and hydropower plants must be checked regularly, and maintained in good order, which can create further costs for the community.

2. Environmental damage. The systems used to harness hydropower (particularly dams) can disrupt the habitats of fish, crustaceans, and other water-dwelling life.

3. Displacing communities. Hydroelectric dams are large building projects that frequently require whole communities of people to move out of their homes to make way for the dam.

4. Dangerous. If a hydroelectric dam ‘breaches’ (i.e. if the water spills over the top or a crack in the dam causes the water to come thundering down), it can have a devastating and deadly effect on local communities, houses, fields and more.

5. Geological impact. The sheer weight of water in a dam can have a significant geological impact because dams press down on the earth. In the case of the Hoover Dam, this is suspected to have even caused earthquakes in the area.

6. Natural water sources. Not all locations have natural sources of hydroelectric power (such as rivers or waterfalls) and not all locations are suitable spots to build a hydroelectric dam. The source of Hydroelectric power (water) is hard to transport for long distances, unlike other energy sources like natural gas (which can be piped for hundreds of kilometers) or coal (which can be transported by truck across whole continents).

7. Disrupting water supplies to other nations. If a dam is built in one country that blocks the motion of a river, other nations or communities further downstream that relied on that river for their water supply will now be unable to use it.

8. Disruptive to marine life. When tidal power plants are built in the sea or in estuaries, they can disrupt the habitats of marine life.


Hydropower is an innovative way of harnessing the motion of one of the world’s most abundant natural resources: water.

Thus, hydropower is an attractive choice for anyone seeking renewable and sustainable energy with low carbon emissions. It is a way of generating electricity domestically in a way that does not release pollutants into the atmosphere.

However, and particularly in the case of hydroelectric dams, the use of hydropower can have a significant effect on local plants and animals. It can also endanger or displace human communities living nearby. These risks and disadvantages need to be weighed against the benefits of hydropower.

  • Hydropower: Meaning, Features and Importance
  • Hydropower ( Wikipedia)
  • Hydropower in India (Wikipedia)


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