Hydro-Electric Power (HEP) refers to the production of electricity using the force of flowing water. In hydroelectric power, production water is forced through turbines that drive power generators for electric production. A lot of countries in the world use hydroelectric power as a source of electricity. The largest hydroelectric power dam in the world is called a three gorge dam which is in China and has the capacity of producing 22,500 MW of electricity. Examples of hydroelectric power schemes in Africa are: the Volta project is in Ghana, the Cabora Bassa is in Mozambique, the Owen Falls is in Uganda and the Aswan project is in Egypt.
The following are advantages of the hydroelectric power scheme:
- Water is a renewable resource; hence it can be used for a longer period of time; since water is a renewable resource, it means that as long as there is rainfall, it is possible to have hydroelectric power schemes because large rivers will always have sufficient water. Water is not like coal that can be used up making power production a problem. Hydroelectric power schemes provide cheap electricity since the water is inexhaustible.
- Hydroelectric power schemes are cheap; although it is expensive to construct a hydroelectric power station, once it is finished, the cost of maintaining it is very low when compared to that of a thermal power station.
- Hydroelectric power schemes are clean and minimize the amount of environmental pollution; when compared to thermal and nuclear power stations, hydroelectric power schemes are a clean source of energy in the sense that they minimize the amount of environmental pollution. Hydroelectric power schemes do not produce smoke or nuclear radioactive waste that can be harmful to humans and wildlife as well as the environment.
- Provide fishing and irrigation opportunities; hydroelectric power lakes or reservoirs provide the opportunity for economic activities such as fishing and irrigation. Fishing and irrigation are very important for the economic development of the country. Water from the lake can be used for farming, such as for irrigation.
- Provide the opportunity for recreation and tourism; some of the countries with hydroelectric power schemes have a lot of tourists and some people visit the sites for recreational purposes. Hydroelectric power lakes provide the opportunity for recreation, especially boating and angling. Hydroelectric power lakes usually attract wildlife thus tourists visit the lake sites. Tourists pay some fees to visit these areas and this generates revenue for the country.
- Provide revenue or foreign exchange; Excess electricity may be exported to neighboring countries and this leads to the generation of foreign exchange or revenue.
- Flood control; hydroelectric power schemes are very important in controlling floods, especially in the lower parts of the river. In times of floods, the reservoir can hold water that would otherwise be dangerous to people in the lower parts of the river.
- Water transport; the man-made lakes or reservoirs created are also used as means of water transport. Some boats on these lakes transport both passengers and goods between settlements.