How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 593

How does waterpower work? - MA
By "waterpower" I assume that you mean hydroelectric power. In that case, water from an elevated source enters a pipe and travels downhill to a generating plant. As the water descends, its gravitational potential energy (the stored energy associated with height and the earth's gravity) becomes pressure potential energy (the stored energy associated with pressure) and kinetic energy (the energy of motion). By the time the water reaches the generating plant, it has enormous pressure and a modest speed.

This moving, high-pressure water is then sent through a fan-like turbine. As the water moves toward the low pressure beyond the turbine, it does work on the turbine's rotating blades and its energy is transferred to those blades. The water gives up its energy and the turbine takes away this energy in its rotary motion. The turbine is attached to an electric generator, which uses moving magnets and wire coils to turn the turbine's rotary energy into electric energy. The electric energy is carried away on wire to be used elsewhere. Overall, the water's gravitational potential energy has become electric energy.


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