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How Washington State Hydropower Powers YOUR Home


You probably already know that Washington is a leading state in renewable energy. But if you’re asking, “Water you talking about?” then it’s time to learn about hydropower!

What is hydropower?

Out of all of Washington’s clean energy efforts, hydropower is the biggest. Did you know that your power to your home is about 75% carbon-less? And that’s all thanks to dams on the Snake River and Columbia River.

How exactly are we harnessing the power of water? Well, the key is that it’s falling water — falling because a dam creates a high water level behind the dam, and a low water level in front of the dam. The waterfall energy is actually captured because the water pushes against the blades of a turbine and makes the turbine spin (just like a windmill). The turbine is connected to a generator, and so the energy is converted into electricity.

As you can guess, there are multiple factors that determine how much energy can be generated by hydropower, like the distance the water falls, how much water is flowing, and the efficiency of the turbine and generator. Not every river is large enough to make installing a hydroelectric plant worthwhile. Some detractors of hydropower in Washington claim that the dams that have been removed are an indicator that hydropower is not a good energy source at all. We disagree, and we’ll explain why:

Pros and cons

One example that hydro-phobes use to justify why they think the dams don’t work is the dam in Olympic National Park. It’s true that this was definitely an example of early hydropower gone wrong. It was installed in the early 1900s (yes, hydropower has been around for 100 years!), and unfortunately led to the loss of most of the salmon population, and also had negative environmental and cultural effects, like flooding the Native American Elwha Klallam Tribe lands.

This is awful, but that’s exactly why the government has passed laws to regulate hydropower: to make sure things like this don’t happen. In 1992, the Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act determined that if a dam is harmful, then it should be removed, and the natural ecosystem should be restored as much as possible.

There are four dams on the Snake River that, together, generate enough energy to power a city the size of Seattle. So, with the power of water and gravity, you have an energy source that is free from carbon emissions and climate change concerns. One study showed that if you took all the dams out of the Snake River, then there would be four million more metric tons of carbon dioxide in the sky every year – which, to put it in more relatable terms, would be like adding over half a million cars to the road!

Here at ThermAll, we think hydropower is great, and it relates to us because we are glad to know that much of the energy we are helping provide to your home is clean and renewable energy!

However, that doesn’t guarantee that your HVAC equipment will never break down. If you ever need service, you can trust the pros at ThermAll, with over 160 years of combined experience! Call us at (509) 248-8368 or schedule an appointment online.


Seattle Business Magazine