Hydroelectric Energy Renewable Energy and the Environment by Bikash Pandey and Ajoy Karki
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Hydroelectric Energy Renewable Energy and the Environment by Bikash Pandey and Ajoy Karki

Hydropower generates over 1000 GW globally, producing more than 4000 TWh each year, around 16.5% of the world’s total electricity. This makes it by far the largest source of renewable electricity when the world is racing against time to combat climate change by greening its energy supply. Although water wheels were utilized by humans as a source of energy since antiquity, industrialscale hydropower required the development of modern turbines starting in the first half of the nineteenth century, building on fundamentals of hydraulic machines spelled out by the great mathematician, Euler, half a century earlier.

Hydroelectricity saw a period of rapid growth starting late in the nineteenth century with the discovery and proliferation of alternating current, progress in manufacturing and metallurgy, and breakthroughs in civil engineering, which enabled the construction of large dams. By 1940, over 1500 dams supplied 40% of the electricity in the United States. Construction of new hydroelectric projects slowed in the 1960s when concerns began to grow about the social and environmental challenges associated with large dams. Together with other renewable energy technologies, hydroelectricity has a critical role to play in the ongoing global transition to clean energy.

Although starting from a small base and currently contributing only a small fraction to the world’s electricity supply, wind and solar energy are growing rapidly, already adding more gigawatts each year than hydroelectricity does. In addition to its own generation, hydroelectricity helps the growth of all renewables by providing energy storage as power grids around the world attempt to integrate ever higher percentages of variable renewable energy. Investment into pumped storage hydroelectricity is expected to grow alongside other renewables. Hydroelectricity provides an alternative to new investment in coal-based generation for industrializing countries whose power needs are growing rapidly.

Coupled with other renewables, hydroelectricity provides these countries a pathway to low-carbon growth. Increased investment into small hydropower features prominently in planned climate actions of most countries both for supplying their grids and for providing electricity in regions of the countries that remain underelectrified. Where resources exist, micro-hydro often provides the lowest cost source of power to remote communities. The bulk of this book covers the engineering disciplines of civil engineering, hydrology, hydraulics, and mechanical and electrical engineering as they relate to hydroelectricity.

The authors, Bikash Pandey and Ajoy Karki, have written different chapters based on their areas of expertise. In addition to technical subjects, they have explored the economics of hydroelectric projects, social and environmental considerations, and engagement with communities necessary for their development. Chapter 1 probes the history of water power, the development of hydroelectricity, and its continuing relevance today. Chapter 2 goes into the basic physics of how falling water generates power, and describes the main types of modern hydroelectric systems in use today and their major components.

Chapter 3 describes how site selection and feasibility studies are carried out. Chapters 4 through 8 explain the principles behind how civil structures of hydroelectric plants are designed, including the intake, headrace, gravel trap, settling basin, forebay, penstock, and the powerhouse. Chapters 9 through 12 explore the design of different types of hydraulic turbines, which are in use and being developed. Chapter 13 focuses on the electrical aspects of hydroelectricity including the workings of generators, controllers, and power transmission and distribution. Chapter 14 discusses the economic analysis of infrastructure projects. Chapter 15 describes the social and environmental challenges of hydroelectric project and participatory processes required for sustainable development.

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