The technology to power machinery using water has been around for thousands of years. The ancient Romans and Greeks used water power to help them perform simple but labour-intensive tasks. In the UK, water wheels have been used to grind corn since the Middle Ages. Over time, engineers adapted the technology to connect water wheels to turbines to produce electricity. And now hydroelectric power produces over 70% of the world’s sustainable energy.
Given the dramatic fuel price hike we’re all currently experiencing, there will be a much greater demand for sustainable energy. So we thought it would be a good idea to take a look at developments in water power technology that could help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
From March 2022, Yonkers residents in New York State are set to get all their power from hydroelectricity. This very timely change is allowing residents to lock in their rates for over a year, at a time when the prices of electricity from fossil fuel are set to rise. The power station has been producing electricity for the past 60 years, and it now plays a key role in New York’s goal to produce 70% of power from renewable sources by 2030 as part of the plan to produce zero emissions from electricity by 2040.
There are a lot of examples highlighting the ways in which people around the world are using water power on a smaller scale. In an article about sustainable farming, the BBC talked to a farmer in Northern Ireland who installed a water turbine to produce power for their farm. There are various technology-related methods that farmers can implement to improve farms water efficiency. For instance, automatic meter reading (AMR) can be installed to immediately track water usage, identify leaks, and monitor spend. AMR devices also provide further insight to identify where water consumption may be reduced.
In the market town of Hertford, England, work is underway to create a micro hydro scheme that will provide enough renewable electricity to power the renovated theatre. A turbine is being installed in an old sluice gate channel in the mill stream that runs beside the theatre building.
Belgian engineers are developing whirlpool turbines which rely on artificially created whirlpools to drive a simple turbine that can power dozens of homes 24 hours a day. Developers see this as an ideal solution to provide power to isolated communities.
Large-scale water power can be produced with large-scale projects, such as hydroelectric dams. But these require monumental investment as well as the planning permission needed in order to create large enough reservoirs that will provide enough water. But we don’t all need to be trained engineers in order to produce our own water power. Online advice abounds from amateur enthusiasts who have created power for their own homes through innovative use of recycled washing machines and drainpipes.
Technology is now so good that entrepreneurs have launched a portable mini hydropower plant. The device produces enough power to recharge your mobile phone or any device with a USB charger. The Blue Freedom Portable is light enough and small enough to be carried in a backpack. To use it, all you need to do is place it in flowing water where it will generate enough power to charge your devices.
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