There are several types of hydropower systems including: storage systems (common in Canada), where a dam creates a reservoir that releases water through turbines; run-of-the-river systems, where a river’s current pushes a turbine; and, pumped-storage systems where water is pumped to a reservoir at a higher elevation. All hydropower systems rely on converting the kinetic energy in water flowing downhill into electricity using turbines and generators. The energy available increases with a greater volume of water flowing and a higher drop in elevation.
Most hydropower facilities in Canada have water flowing through a pipe (penstock) to a turbine which the flowing water rotates. This moving turbine spins a generator which generates electricity to be sent to the grid. Facilities can differ in size and generation from very small to very large. For example, the Roddinckton Hydro Plant new the Town of Roddinckton in Newfoundland has a 0.4 WM capacity, but the Churchill Falls Hydroelectric Generating Facility in Labrador is 5,428 MW in capacity.
Hydroelectric power has been used for 2,000 years and modern hydropower turbine began in France in the mid-1700s. As of 2020, Canada had the fourth highest installed hydropower capacity of any country. Hydropower produced 60% of Canada’s electricity generation in 2019.