Hydropower has been used for many centuries for many different applications including milling, moving water, irrigation, etc., but in the 1878 the first hydroelectric power generator was developed by William George Armstrong. By 1881 the Schoelkopf Power Station No. 1 near Niagara Falls started to produce power followed by the Edison hydroelectric power plant in 1882. The development of hydroelectric power began to take off. By 1886 there were a total of 45 hydroelectric power plants in the US and Canada and by 1889 there were 200 in the US alone. That’s a lot of power plants!
Hydroelectricity is generated in many different ways, but all use the force of water moving to turn propellers or turbines to generate electricity. These turbines generate electricity through a generator and the power can be fed to the grid or to a specific application. Seems pretty simple.
There is a downside to hydroelectric power generation. There can be great damage to ecosystems and land areas around a dam. Siltation can cause a dam to fail and the flow shortage due to a drought can cause the amount of water available to be less than normal causing a lower power generation. Then you have methane gasses that are released in tropical areas, having to relocate those who live in the projected area of development, and failures that can occur.
So during the industrial revolution, hydroelectricity was developed and put into place, but maybe not in the best of ways. But what if we had taken it to the next level? What if we had found ways to maximize the power output so that other forms of power generation weren’t needed? Or what if we had learned how to generate electricity earlier then the late 1800’s? Or made it safer so the issues that are involved in hydroelectric power aren’t as great or even exist at all?
Would tidal power be in use in more areas? I think so. The tides move all around the world so no coastal area would be without power. What about rivers? We may have been able to develop safer and smaller forms of power generators that could reside within the ecosystem instead of taking over the area changing the flow of the river.
Want to read Part 1? Check out Renewable Energy and The Industrial Revolution: Part 1
Or how about Part 2? Check out Renewable Energy and The Industrial Revolution: Part 2
Here's the latest Part 4: Check out Renewable Energy and The Industrial Revolution: Part 4