Behind the Scenes: How Hydroelectricity Works
Content provided by Southern Company
A hydro plant uses falling water as its "fuel," which is stored in the reservoir behind the dam. When power is needed, the water in the reservoir is released through the dam, turning the turbines and generating electricity. The production of hydropower removes no water from the river and produces no pollutants.
Click the diagram above for an animated demonstration for how a hydro plant works.
A hydropower plant uses falling water as stored energy. Water from the reservoir (A) passes through the penstock (a large pipe that carries water from the reservoir to turbines in the powerhouse) (B) to enter the powerhouse.
The flowing water turns the propeller-like water wheel or turbine (C), which is connected by a shaft to the generator (D), which spins and produces electricity.
As water leaves the turbine, it is discharged through the draft tube (E), where it enters the tailrace (F) and returns unaltered to the river below the dam.
The electricity produced by the spinning generator (D) is conducted to the power transformer (G), where the voltage is increased. The high-voltage electricity is then fed into Georgia Power's transmission lines for distribution throughout the region.
Note: Pumped-storage facilities, such as Lake Oconee's Wallace Plant have additional capabilities.
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