Authors

Pod(s)

Earth, Energy

Module(s)

Renewable Energy

Abstract

Water has always been one of mankind’s most vital resources. While the human body can go weeks without food, it can only survive for a couple of days without water consumption. Crops in the field will shrivel and die without a readily available supply. We use it for cleaning; we use it for cooking. And since almost the start of recorded history, we have used it as an energy source. Some of the first recorded mentions of hydropower go back over 2,000 years ago to ancient Greece and Egypt, where water wheels were connected to grindstones to turn wheat into flour. Harnessing water for this laborious task allowed for large quantities of food to be processed, which allowed for job specialization and civilization to grow. Later, these same water wheels were connected to rudimentary equipment such as lathes, saw blades, and looms in order to produce such goods as furniture and fabric. By the 1700’s, factories were mass-producing these products, which allowed for even more specialization of jobs and the growth of large cities. The invention of the electrical generator in the late 1800’s produced a new way to exploit hydropower for the growth of civilization. By marrying water turbines to generators with belts and gears, a reliable source of electricity was created that could be used to power factories and businesses around the clock. The large supply of rivers and streams in the Eastern U.S. became a readily-available source of energy that was quickly exploited. The first hydroelectric power plant was built in Niagara Falls in 1881 to power streetlights in the city. Before the end of that decade, over 200 additional power plants were built in the U.S.