Power GenerationHydro-Electric (Hydel) Energy

Hydropower Generation Plant? Construction, Working, Types, Advantages, Disadvantages and Applications

What is a Hydro Power Generation Plant? Construction, Working, Types, Advantages, Disadvantages and Applications


Hydropower is one of the oldest and most widely used renewable energy sources, producing over 16% of the world’s electricity. Hydropower plants utilize the potential power of falling or fast-flowing water to generate clean and sustainable electricity. Let’s learn about hydropower plant components, working principles, types of projects, turbine types, construction, benefits, limitations, and significant applications.

What is Hydropower?

Hydropower is the process of generating power by harnessing the energy of water moving from high to low elevations. It is a renewable, sustainable, and economical way of producing electricity. Hydropower plants convert the kinetic energy of flowing water into mechanical energy by rotating turbines, which further drive generators to produce electricity.

History of Hydropower

Hydropower has been used for centuries, starting with watermills for mechanical processes. The first hydroelectric power plants were built in the late 19th century. As technology advanced, large dams and reservoirs were constructed to harness hydropower. Today, hydropower provides about 16% of world electricity production.

Hydropower Basics

Flowing or falling water contains kinetic energy that can be converted into electricity. Hydropower plants utilize this by channeling water through turbines, making them spin, which drives generators. The key components are dams, reservoirs, penstocks, turbines, generators, and transformers.

Now, let’s look at the major components of a typical hydropower plant.

Hydropower Plant Components


A dam stores river water in a reservoir and controls water release into the turbines. Dams may be concrete arches, embankments,s or gravity types.


Control gates and openings in the dam where water enters into penstocks for conveyance to turbines.


Large pipes carry water from the reservoir intake through the dam to the turbines inside the powerhouse.


Water strikes turbine blades, converting kinetic energy into mechanical rotation to drive the electric generator.


The rotating turbine shaft spins rotor coils within stationary stator coils, producing electricity through electromagnetic induction.


Steps up the generator output voltage to suitable levels for electrical grid transmission.


Channels below the turbine outlet return discharge water to the river downstream.

Now, let’s understand how these components enable power generation in a hydropower plant.

Hydro Power Generation Plant? Construction, Working, Types, Advantages, Disadvantages and Applications
Hydro Power Generation Plant? Construction, Working, Types, Advantages, Disadvantages and Applications

Working Principle of Hydropower Plant

Hydraulic Head

The height difference between the reservoir and tailrace water levels determines the hydraulic head, which decides the pressure energy available.

Intake System

Reservoir water enters the intake controlled by gates and flows through penstocks towards the turbine.

Turbine Operation

The high-pressure water strikes turbine blades or buckets, producing torque that rotates the turbine shaft.

Electricity Generation

The spinning turbine shaft couples to a generator rotor, rotating within stationary electromagnetic coils, inducing electricity as per Faraday’s law.

Draft Tube

Water exits the turbine into a widening draft tube that helps redirect flow, maintaining consistent pressure and rotor spinning.

Tailrace System

Used water discharges through tailrace tunnels or canals, returning it to the river downstream.

There are several types of hydropower projects and plant configurations utilized globally.

Types of Hydropower Plants

Impoundment Plants

Use dams to create reservoirs and control water for release through turbines as needed, allowing storage for peak loads.

Diversion Plants

Divert a portion of river flows into channels conveying water to turbines and discharging it downstream.

Pumped Storage Plants

Water pumped uphill into a reservoir using off-peak electricity is released to turbines for peak power generation.

Floating Plants

Mounted on floating barges, they generate electricity from river flows without needing dams.

Different types of water turbines are used based on required head and flow levels.

Types of Hydropower Turbines

Pelton Wheel Turbines

Impulse turbines using high-speed water jets striking buckets on the wheel periphery; used for high head sites.

Francis Turbines

Reactance turbines are used for medium heads, where water changes pressure as it flows radially and axially around runner blades.

Kaplan Turbines

Propeller-type axial flow turbines with separately adjustable runner blades and wicket gates to handle low-head sites.

Let’s look at the major aspects involved in constructing hydropower plants.

Hydropower Plant Construction

Dam Construction

Suitable dam types like concrete arches and embankments, are constructed using heavy machinery and millions of cubic meters of material.

Water Conveyance System

Large headrace tunnels and penstock pipes, often kilometers long, are excavated and installed to carry water to the turbines.

Powerhouse Construction

An underground powerhouse is built close to the turbines and generators are installed along with control systems.

Some of the significant advantages of hydropower are:

Advantages of Hydropower

  • Renewable and sustainable sources without fuel costs
  • Produces negligible greenhouse gas emissions
  • High efficiency of around 90%
  • Long lifespan of around 50-100 years
  • Fast starting flexible operations ideal for peak loads
  • Energy storage capability at pumped storage plants
  • Multipurpose benefits like water supply, irrigation, flood control, etc

However, there are also certain disadvantages:

Disadvantages of Hydropower

  • High upfront capital costs requiring long-term financing
  • Social and ecological impacts due to land floods from reservoirs
  • Installation is limited to suitable sites with adequate water flow
  • Droughts can affect output and lead to conflict in uses
  • Sedimentation can reduce reservoir capacity over time
  • Associated with emissions when forests flooded by reservoirs decompose

Some major applications of hydropower plants are:

Hydropower Applications

Grid Power Generation

Large hydropower projects feeding power grids account for most global hydropower capacity, providing clean, renewable base load electricity.

Pumped Storage Systems

Pumped hydro plants store off-peak electricity and generate peak power for grid stabilization and meeting peak demands.

Off-Grid Power

Small hydropower systems are used for isolated rural electrification not connected to major grids.

Damless Hydropower

Innovative technologies generate hydroelectricity from river and tidal flows without dams.

Comparing hydropower with other major electricity sources:

Comparison of Hydropower with Other Sources

  • Hydropower offers renewable and clean energy, unlike polluting fossil fuel plants. But it has higher impacts than wind or solar power.
  • Unlike intermittent wind and solar generation needing storage solutions, it can provide an economical base load supply.
  • Hydropower has lower environmental impacts and risks than nuclear power plants.
  • Benefits like energy storage and grid stabilization complement hydropower to solar and wind energy proliferation.


Hydropower generation represents a clean, renewable energy source with advantages and challenges. As we continue advancing technology and environmental stewardship, hydropower will play a vital role in transitioning to a more sustainable energy future.


Hydropower provides a stable, renewable electricity source utilized worldwide. Hydropower plants convert the potential energy of falling or fast-flowing water into mechanical energy by spinning turbines coupled with generators. Reservoir storage enables flexibility.

Major hydropower plant components are dams, intake systems, penstocks, turbines, generators, and transformers. Impoundment, diversion, and pumped storage are among the common types. Hydropower offers sustainability, high efficiency, storage capabilities, and grid reliability benefits but also poses ecological impacts.

Advancing sustainable hydropower by mitigating its environmental effects and the continued growth of new renewable technologies will help meet our clean energy needs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What is hydropower generation, and how does it work?
    • Hydropower generation utilizes the kinetic energy of flowing water to generate electricity through water turbines and generators.
  2. What are the main advantages of hydropower generation?
    • Advantages include clean and renewable energy, low greenhouse gas emissions, and flexible power generation.
  3. What are the primary disadvantages of hydropower generation?
    • Disadvantages include environmental impact, limited reservoir sites, and disruption of river ecosystems.
  4. Where is hydropower generation commonly applied?
    • Hydropower is commonly used for electricity production, irrigation, water supply, and flood control.
  5. How do the construction and working of hydropower plants take place?
    • Hydropower plants involve dam construction, water turbines, and generators to convert water’s kinetic energy into electricity.
  6. What are the different types of hydropower plants?
    • Types include conventional hydroelectric plants, pumped storage hydroelectric plants, and run-of-river hydroelectric plants.
  7. What challenges does hydropower generation face in the future?
    • Challenges include mitigating environmental impact, promoting small-scale hydropower, and expanding hydropower globally.

MCQs related to Hydro Power generation

  1. How does a hydropower plant generate electricity?

It converts the water’s kinetic energy into rotational mechanical energy to drive turbine-coupled electric generators.

  1. What are the main components of a hydropower plant?

The main components are the dam, reservoir, intake, penstock, turbine, generator, transformer, and tailrace.

  1. What are the different types of hydropower turbines?

Pelton, Francis, and Kaplan turbines are common, suitable for different heads and flow levels.

  1. What is pumped storage hydropower?

It uses reversible turbines to pump water to an upper reservoir using off-peak electricity and release it to produce peak power.

  1. What are the advantages of hydropower?

Advantages include renewable energy, high efficiency, long lifespan, flexible grid operations, energy storage capability, etc.

  1. What are the applications of hydropower?

It is used for grid power supply, pumped storage, isolated off-grid systems, rural electrification, and damless hydro technologies.

  1. How long does it take to build a hydropower plant?

Large hydropower projects typically take 4 to 8 years for construction, with several years needed for planning and approvals too.

  1. Does hydropower cause pollution?

Hydropower operation causes negligible pollution, but reservoirs contribute to methane emissions from decomposing vegetation.

  1. Can hydropower adjust electricity output?

Hydropower plants offer good flexibility and fast ramping capabilities to adjust output for grid demand fluctuations.

  1. How does hydropower compare with solar and wind energy?

Unlike variable solar and wind, hydropower provides stable renewable base load electricity but has higher environmental impacts.

Engr. Muhammad Ali Raza

Hello, I'm Engr. Ali Raza, an Electrical Engineering Professional with a passion for innovation and a commitment to excellence. I completed my electrical engineering degree in 2017 and have since been actively engaged in the field, where I've had the opportunity to apply my knowledge and skills to real-world projects. Over the years, I've gained valuable experience in Engineering field, allowing me to contribute effectively to the development and implementation of electrical systems and solutions. I thrive in dynamic and challenging environments, constantly seeking opportunities to expand my expertise and make a meaningful impact in the world of Electrical Engineering.

One thought on “Hydropower Generation Plant? Construction, Working, Types, Advantages, Disadvantages and Applications

  • Talat Hameed

    Hydro energy is the cheapest form of energy.


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