Richard B. Russell Dam and Lake

Hydropower - Value to Individuals and the Community


Electricity plays an important part in our lives

The average American home uses about 10,000 kilowatt-hours of electric energy every year. Hydropower is an important source of energy. It provides electricity to light our homes and to run our appliances, television, computers, any many labor-saving devices. Just as important is the electricity provided to our schools, hospitals, stores, offices, farms, and factories.

There are many ways to generate electricity, but hydropower has some characteristics that make it especially valuable to the community:

  • It's renewable: Hydropower is the nation's most productive source of renewable energy. The earth's hydrologic cycle provides a continual supply of water from rainfall and snowmelt. In addition, hydroelectric energy saves scarce, non-renewable fossil fuels.
  • It's efficient: Hydropower plants convert about 90 percent of the energy in falling water into electric energy. This is much more efficient than fossil-fueled powerplants, which lose more than half of the energy content of their fuel as waste heat and gases.
  • It's clean: Hydropower plants emit none of the waste gases that contribute to air pollution, acid rain, and global warming, nor do the cause noise pollution.  No trucks, trains, barges, pipelines are needed to bring fuel to the powerplant site.
  • It's reliable Hydropower plant machinery is relatively simple and runs at slow speeds. This makes it reliable and durable.
  • It's flexible Hydropower units can start quickly and adjust rapidly to changes in demand for electricity. This makes them valuable for meeting peak loads and for serving as reserve capacity to protect power system reliability and stability.
Hydropower is a renewable resource

Corps dams with hydropower plants also serve other purposes, such as navigation, flood damage reduction, water supply, recreation, irrigation, and low flow augmentation.

Bringing Electricity to Farms. As late as the 1940's, many farms still did not have electricity. The 1936 Rural Electrification Act helped farmers organize electric cooperatives to bring power to their farms and communities. These co-ops and other publicly owned utilities were given first priority to power from Corps hydro plants. This power helped bring rural electrification to reality.




   Hydropower projects are

Hydropower and its Value to the Nation (Other Links)

The information published on this website was compiled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: The Institute for Water Resources, in partnership with the Hydroelectric Design Center and the Hydropower Analysis Center.