Can renewable energy power the world?
Can renewable energy power the world?

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Can renewable energy power the world?

5.2.2 National hydro resources

Data for the 11 countries whose hydro output in 2009 was greater than 50 TWh, together with a few other European countries of interest is shown in Table 2. Several countries appear to have developed more than half their technical potential already; but some may limit their estimates of ‘technical potential’ to sites that have been studied in detail.

Table 2 National hydro potential and contributions, 2009 (sources: WEA, 2010a, BP, 2010)

Country Technical potential/TWh y-1 Installed capacity/GW Annual output/TWh y-1 Average capacity factor Percentage of nation’s electricity
China 2500 171 616 41% 17%
Canada 830 73 399 62% 64%
Brazil 1250 78 391 58% 84%
USA 1340 77 275 41% 7%
Russia 1670 50 176 40% 18%
Norway 240 30 127 49% 96%
India 660 38 106 32% 12%
Venezuela 260 15 86 67% 69%
Japan 136 28 74 30% 7%
Sweden 130 16 76 54% 49%
France 100 21 58 32% 11%
Austria 75 8 37 50% 53%
Italy 65 18 46 28% 16%
Switzerland 43 14 36 31% 52%

The countries with the highest capacity factors tend to be those where hydropower makes a significant contribution but is not the only major source of electricity – a situation that allows the relatively cheap hydropower to be used to its full potential, with an alternative source of electricity available when hydropower cannot meet demand.

In general, if almost all a nation’s electricity comes from hydro plants, annual capacity factors are usually lower, because the installed capacity must be large enough to meet the maximum demand experienced during any day (or year).

Compared with the countries in Table 3, the hydro resource of the UK is small. The installed capacity in 2009 was about 1.5 GW (DECC, 2010a), with output varying in recent years between about 3.3 and 5.3 TWh – reflecting year-on-year weather variations throughout this relatively small area.

Watch this short video, which describes the 130 kW Loch Sloy hydroelectric power station and gives a brief view of small-scale hydro installation.

Download this video clip.
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Next you’ll look at hydro output on a world scale.

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