How Is Hydroelectric Energy Used Today?

Kevin Jones/CC-BY-2.0

According to National Geographic, hydroelectric power is used to power homes, offices, factories, hospitals and schools. It is also one of the first methods developing countries use to bring affordable electricity to rural areas.

According to National Geographic, hydroelectric power is harnessing the energy from flowing water. In order to do this, the water must be controlled. To control the water, a reservoir is created, usually with the building of a dam. The water is then channeled through tunnels in the dam, where it causes turbines to turn. When the turbines turn, they make the generators move, which produces electricity.

Also according to National Geographic, hydroelectricity helps improve hygiene, education and employment opportunities for a community. The United States depended on hydroelectric energy to first bring electricity to many rural or poor areas during the 1930s. Dams were a large part of the New Deal government programs during the Great Depression. Despite its benefits, hydroelectric power can come at a cost. The dams required for hydroelectric energy create reservoirs that flood entire valleys, often forcing homes, communities and towns to be relocated. One example is the Three Gorges Dam in China. The dam offers safe, affordable electricity to millions of people, and provided more than a quarter of a million jobs during its construction, but the project also forced more than a million people to relocate.