Hydro-power generation is one of the most effective areas of the electric power industry. It is based on using the power of water’s mass movement in channels, as well as tidal motion. In addition to producing electric energy, hydro-power generation solves numerous major economic and social problems. They include the creation of drinking and industrial water supply systems, navigation development, the implementation of irrigation systems, production development and the creation of new jobs. 

Hydro-power plants account for approximately 20% of global electricity production. In many countries, the share of hydro-power generation is much higher. For example, Canada, the closest to Russia in terms of natural conditions, produces 62% of its electricity using hydro-power, Brazil - 86%, and Norway, known for its harsh environmental legislation, - 95%.

The Future of Hydro-power Generation

Development of small-scale hydro-power generation

In recent decades, small-scale hydropower generation has gained a stable position in many countries. Developing the hydro-power potential of small rivers solves energy supply problems for small consumers. The construction of small HPPs does not require water reservoirs of considerable size, and the construction period and costs of a small HPP are much lower than those of a general one. Small HPPs are usually easily automated and can be operated without permanent maintenance personnel. In addition, the cost of 1 kWh of electricity generated by small HPPs is lower than the cost of 1 kWh of electricity generated by large HPPs. 

Use of the world’s ocean energy 

Tidal power plants use the energy of tides resulting from the gravitational interaction of the Earth rotating around its axis with the Moon and the Sun. Just one tidal cycle of the world’s ocean is equivalent to 8 trillion kWh in terms of energy. The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans have the largest tidal energy reserves. The advantages of tidal power plants include environmental safety, the low cost
of electricity produced, and the possibility to be used with other types of power plants in electric power systems both in base-load demands and under peak loads.

Wave-cut generation - is another promising trend for hydro-power development. The technical potential of wave energy is estimated at approximately 3 billion kWh per annum.

The ocean and sea current energy potential, which amounts to hundreds of billions of kilowatt-hours per year, is also of interest for hydro-power development. The placement of low-speed turbines in sea currents is in progress. Finally, another promising trend in hydro-power generation is the use of oceans’ thermal energy. There is a very significant temperature difference between water on the surface and water at ocean depths, even in the first hundred meters. Pilot sea thermal plants have already been constructed near the Hawaiian Islands, Nauru, and off the coast of the Ivory Coast. Scientists are working to solve the problem of accumulating and transmitting produced energy to mainland consumers.

Russian Hydro-power Generation

Hydro-power generation is an important element in ensuring the reliability of Russia’s Unified Energy System. It provides more than 90% of regulating power reserve. Of all existing power plants, HPPs are the most flexible and can, if necessary, in a matter of minutes significantly increase the volume of generation to cover peak loads. 

Currently, in Russia, there are 102 hydropower plants with a capacity of more than 100 MW. The total installed capacity of hydro-power units at Russian HPPs is approximately 45 million kW, whereas generation is approximately 165 billion kWh per annum. HPPs account for 20.6% of Russia’s total electricity production. 

The RF Energy Strategy until 2020 assumes a growth in electricity consumption, including with a view to plans to accelerate natural resource development in Western and Eastern Siberia, the Far East, the European North and the Caspian Region. The country’s designed energy balance provides for improving the structure of electrical energy generation, including better utilizing hydro-power potential. 

Now, Russia ranks second in the world in terms of hydro-power resources. But, its potential is even higher. New construction is planned mainly in Siberia and the Far East. In addition, the modernization of existing HPPs is an important aspect of developing the domestic hydro-power industry.