Hydroelectric power is the only power resource that is both commercially viable and renewable. Electricity generated by waterpower does not create waste products the way that coal-fired power plants or nuclear plants do. And the fuel for the plants – water – is a renewable resource.
Hydroelectric power provides about 7 percent of the electricity in the United States, or 273 billion kilowatt-hours. Most of the remaining needs are supplied by nuclear plants and fossil fuel plants. A small percentage is supplied by sources such as solar power.
The Yadkin Project has a total generating capacity of nearly 215 megawatts of electricity. That’s enough power to light 3.5 million 60-watt light bulbs, or 143,000 portable hair dryers.
Hydroelectric power generation is relatively simple. Falling water hits the blades of a turbine which causes a shaft within a generator to turn. That shaft is connected to an armature that consists of huge coils of wire surrounded by very large magnets. As the shaft turns, electric current is created.
Most hydropower stations are built on man-made reservoirs to store water needed for power generation and to provide the “fall” or water pressure necessary to turn the turbine blades. Reservoirs provide a number of other benefits beyond power generation. They help control flooding, provide many recreational benefits, create a source for drinking water and a stable water supply for community and industry use, and provide habitat for a variety of wildlife.