We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are Hydroelectric Generators?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
About Mechanics is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At About Mechanics, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Hydroelectric generators can turn the energy of moving water into usable electricity. This is most commonly accomplished by damming a river and then directing the water through one or more turbines. As the water causes the turbines to spin, they in turn operate electric generators. While damming rivers can have environmental repercussions, hydroelectric generators are typically considered to be a primary source of clean, renewable energy. About 20% of the electricity in the world comes from hydroelectric generators, which accounts for most of the electricity generated by renewable sources.

Most hydroelectric generators are part of dam installations that use man made reservoirs, though there are a number of other ways of tapping into hydropower. Run-of-river generators operate in much the same way as traditional dam and reservoir generators, though they typically have little or no reservoir capacity. Instead of creating an artificial blockage of flow and change in elevation, run-of-river power generation makes use of natural water flow and river characteristics. In order for a run-of-river plant to generate consistent electricity, the river it is installed on typically must have a consistently high flow of water.

The movement of water in daily tidal flows can also be harnessed by hydroelectric generators. This is usually accomplished by installing turbines in a tidal zone that are operated by the daily fluctuation of the tide. It is sometimes possible to build reservoirs into these systems, allowing for additional generator capacity in high demand situations.

Another way that additional hydroelectric generator capacity can be added to a system is through pumped storage. This system can be used in conjunction with a traditional dammed hydroelectric plant, or in a standalone capacity. During times when electricity demand in an area is low, water can be pumped up to high elevation reservoirs. Then when demand increases, the stored water can be used to increase generator capacity. These pump systems ultimately generate less power than is used to fill the reservoirs, but pumped storage for hydroelectric generation can be a key method of grid energy storage in some areas.

Some hydroelectric power generation can have environmental consequences, particularly when large dam installations are involved. A potentially undesirable consequence of some dams is how they can effectively carve up the ecosystem of a river. While some dams include fish ladders to allow certain species to travel upriver to spawn, other fish may not be able to make use of them. This can interfere with the life cycle of some species, or reduce the biodiversity of certain populations.

Dams can also have positive effects, such as providing flood control and a reliable source for irrigation. The reservoirs may also be used for aquaculture and recreation. Unlike most ways of generating electricity, hydroelectric generators do not produce greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2). Some CO2 and other pollutants may be created in the construction of the generators, though they are typically very clean once operating.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
About Mechanics, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

About Mechanics, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.