How Hydro Works
- In order to convert the potential energy of water to electricity, waterpower facilities use either a natural drop in elevation like at Niagara Falls, or create a drop using dams.
- The amount of electricity generated depends on the vertical distance the water falls and the volume of water.
- Water from the river or reservoir behind the dam, flows in through an opening called the intake.
- From the intake, water flows under pressure through a pipe called the penstock.
- At the end of the penstock a turbine is located. The force of the water turns the blades of the turbine which then turns the shaft inside the turbine.
- The shaft inside the turbine is connected to a generator, which generates electricity.
- Once the water passes the turbine it flows through a draft tube out of the station and back into the river.
Waterpower: Ontario’s primary source of renewable energy
Today, Ontario’s waterpower resources comprise about 24% of the province’s energy supply–with an installed capacity of 8,150 Megawatts. Nuclear power accounts for 58%, natural gas for 6%, and other renewables (wind, solar etc.) for 12%.
An Energy-efficient Source of Electricity
- The average facility converts energy to electric energy at a rate of between 75% and 95%.
- A typical waterpower generating facility has a long life cycle of between 75 and 100 years.
- The average energy payback ratio (energy required vs. energy produced) is by far the highest among all sources.
- Relative to other sources, the production of waterpower could be considered a form of energy conservation.
A Province Rich in Water Resources
- Ontario has more than 250,000 lakes and tens of thousands of kilometres of rivers and streams.
- About 50 systems support all of Ontario’s waterpower production. Fewer than a dozen account for more than eighty percent.
- Niagara Falls comprises almost a quarter of the installed capacity.
- Waterpower facilities are located within 10 km of every major town and all cities in north-western Ontario.
Realizing the Potential for Clean, Renewable Waterpower
- An inventory of waterpower potential in Ontario identified 2,000 sites with basic hydraulic conditions (regularly flowing water and change in elevation) to produce waterpower energy.
- Just 200 sites have been developed in the last century.
- Distance to the transmission grid, other natural resource values, and the demand for renewable energy are important factors in realizing waterpower potential.
Sustainable Energy: an Asset for the Future
- Like other natural resources, Ontario’s waterpower resources must be managed and developed to meet present needs and anticipate the requirements of future generations.
- The waterpower potential that remains in Ontario should be treated as an asset that can continue to contribute energy, now and in the future.
- Acknowledging and protecting this potential will increase our energy options for the future