Improved Efficiency of Hydroelectricity's New Technology

The population of the world keeps growing, which in turn demands more electricity. A question many people have recently been inquiring is: what can be done to reduce the effect of greenhouse gases? The answer is to improve the green energy sources that are already carried out today. Many different types of green energy sources can be found in the state of Idaho such as geothermal, hydroelectric, nuclear, solar and wind. Hydroelectric power is greatly capitalized on throughout the state of Idaho because of the vast amount of water flowing within. Hydroelectric power has impacted the state in more ways than one but can be utilized even more efficiently with some minor alterations. Improved technology and different practices of hydroelectric power generation has helped further the advancement of making hydroelectricity more efficient in recent years.

Hydroelectric power is created relatively easy. Water Power (2013) explains that electricity is created when water moves through turbine(s) causing them to spin, which activates a generator (papa. 1). Brett Hansen (2010, June) author of “Empowering the People: The Bonneville Dam” found that the Bonneville Dam, located on the Columbia River, has eighteen gates that regulate the flow of water (p. 40). Water Power (2013) communicates the effect of when a dam is placed on a river that the water is blocked and deferred to a reservoir that then stores water that can be pushed through the dam when energy is in high demand (para. 1). Richter, Zenz, Schneider, and Knoblauch (2015, February), authors of “Surge Tanks for High Head Hydropower Plants-Hydraulic Layout-New Developments” further explain that the changes in the flow of water is regulated by the opening and closing of gates. Hansen (2010, June) reported that the turbines in the Bonneville Dam at the time of installation in the 1930’s created 518,400 kW of power (p. 41). The amount of power generated was much larger than what was demanded in that time period (Hansen, 2010, June, p. 41). Richter et al. (2015, February) article mentions that more power can be generated at a faster pace if surge tanks are installed because of the increased amount of kinetic energy. New technology is allowing old systems to become even more efficient than ever before. This technology could easily be added to dams located in Idaho.

As the technology of the world keeps advancing so does the efficiency of dams. In the article “Improve Efficiency” by Mannheim, Schultz, Moen, Smith and Rutherford (2011, December) they explain how the Nine Mile dam has recently had some updates done on the spillway. In Kate Galbraith (2010, January 24) article titled “Why is a Utility Paying Customers?” of the New York Times reported that Idaho Power is paying people to conserve electricity in high power seasons because of the lack of energy, In “Improved Efficiency” by Mannheim et al. (2011, December) the flashboards were replaced with permanent flashboards that are adjusted from a control center to increase the amount of energy created in a given time. Galbraith (2010, January 24) developed a plan to make the energy that was available more efficient by utilizing the dam controls. Mannheim et al. (2011, December) says that these improvements also are safer for workers to be around (p. 61). Idaho Power could have used new technological advancements to further utilize their hydroelectric energy sources.

Small hydroelectric plants are being capitalized on to provide energy where large bodies of water may not be available. Not all dams have to be high power generators. Liu and Zeng (2015, March) co-authors of “Small Hydropower Advances and Challenges in China” address the concept of having small hydropower generators on smaller bodies of water to grant easier access to the direct power source. In the article, “Prioritizing Small Hydropower Projects in Scenarios with Limited Financial Resources” by Canales, Mendes, and Beluco (2014) it is explained that small hydroelectric power facilities offer a solution to people that may be far from a national power grid. Liu and Zeng (2015, March) reported that over 45,000 small hydropower plants were built to provide energy for citizens in the mountainous regions (para. 2). Canales et al. (2014) claim that the new technology of building small scale plants is also a less expensive way to provide energy to people that would not other wise have access to a power source (para. 1). Derakhshan and Kasaeian (2014, March) article “Optimization, Numerical, and Experimental Study for a Propeller Pump as Turbine” concludes that the discovery of using an axil pump as a turbine instead of the basic turbine will reduce the cost even more (p. 1). Liu and Zeng (2015, March) article states that China is finding ways to help subsidize the installation of small waterpower generators (para 3). Idaho could easily participate in the generation of hydroelectricity on smaller waterways. There are many remote places in the state of Idaho that could see benefits from this type of technology, which in exchange makes the energy more efficient.

New technology has allowed companies to develop different ways of producing energy from water besides dams. Creating a larger amount of precipitation is one way to generate more electricity because of an increase in runoff. Cloud seeding is explained in an article titled “A Case Study of Radar Observations and WRF LES Simulations of the Impact of Ground-Based Glaciogenic Seeding on Orographic Clouds and Precipitation. Part I: Observations and Model Validations,” by Chu, Xue, Geerts, Rasmussen, and Breed (2014, October) from the University of Wyoming and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Thomas Newcomb (2013, January 14) author of “Western Utility Seeds Clouds to Boost Size of Snowpack” explains how Idaho Power has invested money into cloud seeding. Chu et al. (2014, October) explains that cloud seeding is where silver iodine (AgI) or dry ice (CO2 gas) is placed into stratus clouds in order to create more precipitation. Newcomb (2013, January 14) reports that iodine is easily formed into small snow like crystals making the amount of snowfall greater in an area (para. 5).

Chu et al. (2014, October) researched the process of cloud seeding in Wyoming where they concluded that adding silver iodine to stratus clouds does in fact create more precipitation at given elevations. Newcomb (2013, January 14) supports cloud seeding by saying, “five to fifteen percent increase can be seen from cloud seeding in Idaho southern regions,” (para. 6). Chu et al. (2014, October) saw a “fourteen percent increase in most areas,” (p. 2279). Newcomb (2013, January 14) translated the percentage increase into the amount of water that could potentially be generated and concluded that almost eight thousand homes could be powered by this small increase in precipitation (para. 7).

Chu et al. (2014, October) mentions that as the severity of global warming increases there will need to be a system to generate more water and more clean energy to protect the world. Moshe Alamaro (2014, October 2), author of “Water Politics must adapt to warming world,” understands the problem of the world heating up and wants to create more water and store the water created in a reservoir. Newcomb (2013, January 14) says that cloud seeding may cost a lot, but the return is over double the initial investment (para. 8). Alamaro (2014, October 2) says, “The cost of putting water behind the reservoir is six hundred dollars per acre foot, but that cost also includes the cost of construction,” (para. 8). Newcomb’s (2013, January 14) story on Idaho Powers states that the cloud seeding project does not have a negative effect on the environment, making cloud seeding that much better of a technological development (para. 10).

Another new advancement made in the twenty first century is the development of placing water turbines in pipelines in order to generator more hydroelectricity. Jay Landers (2015, March) of the Civil Engineering magazine article “Outfitted with Turbines, Portland Water Pipeline Generates Hydropower” reports on how water pipelines are now able to produce power because turbines can be fit into pipes now. Jain and Patel’s (2014, February) article “Investigations on Pump Running in Turbine Mode: A Review of the State-of-the-Art” communicates the new advancement of micro hydroelectric plants. Landers (2015, March) explained how turbines are placed into new or existing pipes because they can be manufactured on such a small scale.

“Hydropower Surge” by Briggeman, Egger, Duncan and Sullivan (2011, May) emphasizes that water pipelines are part of a larger classification of hydroelectric power called conduit hydropower systems. Landers (2015, March) reported that putting turbines into pipelines supplies enough energy to power 150 homes annually (p. 30). Briggeman et al. (2011, May) explains that there were no problems gaining support for conduit hydroelectric power like pipeline generators because the overall water cost will be reduced (p. 40). Jain and Patel (2014, February) claimed that the micro-hydroelectric systems are expensive but is less expensive than larger facilities (p. 846). Lander (2015, March) states the system will pay for itself within the next five years (p. 30). Jain and Patel (2014, February) expressed that pipeline water generators are appealing to people that may not have easy access to renewable energy (p. 841). Landers (2015, March) reported that over two million dollars of renewable energy is generated by the pipeline turbines in the city of Portland (p. 30).

The development of technology to take the energy from waves is relatively new but quickly gaining popularity. Cada, Ahlgrimm, Bahleda, Bigford, Stavrakas, Hall and Sale (2007) collaborated on an article titled “Potential Impacts of Hydrokinetic and Wave Energy Conversion Technologies on Aquatic Environments” featured in the Fisheries magazine about how conventional hydropower will not be able to meet the needs of the future. New dams are not likely to be installed so hydroelectric power is going to have to be utilized through other technologies such as taking the energy from waves (Cada et al. 2007). In order to see energy taken from waves a large number of Wave Energy Converters (WECs) will be needed to work together according to the article “Performance of Large Arrays of Point Absorbing Direct-Driven Wave Energy Converters” written by Engström, Eriksson, Göteman, Isberg, and Leijon (2013, Novermber). Cada et al. (2007) found that one wave generates 2,100 terawatt hours per year on average (p. 175). Engström et al. (2013, November) says that energy can only be achieved if all the moving parts associated with power creation need to work together simultaneously. Cada et al. (2007) reported that 2,100 terawatt hours is more energy produced than in the entire year of 2004 from all sources of power (p. 175).

Energy captured from waves can be broken down into two parts. Cada et al. (2007) says two parts of the wave energy system are the rotating machines and Wave Energy Converters (p. 175). Engström et al. (2013, November) defines a wave energy convertor as  “a point absorber type with a semi-submerged buoy at the sea surface connected via a line to a direct-driven linear generator at the sea bed,” (p. 114). Cada et al. (2007) gave the blunt explanation of saying a rotating machine is an underground wind turbine (p. 175). Engström et al. (2013, November) research shows that all of the wave energy convertors work the same and are set at different depths and allowed to float different distances to maximize the information gathered (p. 114). Cada et al. (2007) explained that gathering information from waves is such a new idea that there is still a lot of research that needs to be conducted. Engström et al. (2013, November) article shares that they are currently working on ways to make water farms more industrial than they have currently. Cada et al. (2007) report shared that there have also came up with ways to lower the environmental effects that these wave generators could potentially have (p. 179).

A solution to the growing problem of increased carbon emission is to implement more hydroelectric power by making small changes to dams that are already in place, installing small hydroelectric plants, increasing the amount of precipitation, utilizing water pipeline turbines, and collecting energy from waves a reality. Power Engineering’s headlines “Idaho Power Seeks Change to Renewable Energy Contracts,” (2012, April) because Idaho Power is trying to develop new plans that would increase their renewable energy sources throughout the area without having to rely on fossil fuels or other neighboring states energy production. These solutions would be the perfect answers for Idaho Power. Idaho will be increasing the efficiency of hydroelectric power through technology. Idaho may not have a large population compared to states like California or New York but everything Idaho can do to help reduce carbon emissions the better off the country and world will be.


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