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September 7, 2021
The most common type of hydroelectric power plant is an impoundment facility. An impoundment facility, typically
a large hydropower system, uses a dam to store river water in a reservoir. Water released from the reservoir flows
through a turbine, spinning it, which in turn activates a generator to produce electricity. The water may be released
to meet changing electricity needs or other needs, such as flood control, recreation, fish passage, and other
environmental and water quality needs.
A diversion, sometimes called a “run-of-river” facility, channels a portion of a river through a canal and/or a
penstock to utilize the natural decline of the river bed elevation to produce energy. A penstock is a closed
conduit that channels the flow of water to turbines with water flow regulated by gates, valves, and turbines.
A diversion may not require the use of a dam.
Another type of hydropower, called pumped storage hydropower, or PSH, works like a giant battery. A PSH
facility is able to store the electricity generated by other power sources, like solar, wind, and nuclear, for later
use. These facilities store energy by pumping water from a reservoir at a lower elevation to a reservoir at a
When the demand for electricity is low, a PSH facility stores energy by pumping water from the lower reservoir
to an upper reservoir. During periods of high electrical demand, the water is released back to the lower reservoir
and turns a turbine, generating electricity.
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