Language Translation
  Close Menu

Fuel Facts: Hydroelectric Power

Water is a clean, reliable, and affordable energy resource. It is a stable option that provides resilience because of its ability to provide quick response to increased demand.

Water is a powerful force. For thousands of years, the power of water from gravity has been harnessed for labor-intense tasks, such as waterwheels in mills to grind grain into flour or to cut lumber. In the late 1800s, water began to be used as a fuel source to generate electricity, also known as hydroelectric power or hydroelectricity.

How Does Hydro Work?

To create hydroelectricity, water is captured through a dam or a diversion structure, then water is moved to a turbine which generates electricity. There are four types of hydroelectric plants.

Did You Know?

  • In Indiana, hydroelectric power serves approximately 0.20% of the state’s electricity needs, in the U.S., it contributes approximately 7% of all electricity.
  • Hydroelectric facilities are among the most resilient power plants. The average lifespan of a hydroelectric facility is 100 years, but with ongoing upgrades can operate well beyond that.
  • Impoundments. Water is collected by a dam, and the water is released when energy is needed. Most dams were built for water management purposes, such flood control and irrigation.
  • Diversion facilities. Also known as "run-of-river," these facilities channel flowing water through a series of canals to power turbines. Most hydroelectric facilities in Indiana are diversion facilities.
  • Pumped storage facilities. Water is pumped from a lower elevation reservoir into a higher elevation reservoir. Water is stored for later use and when energy is needed, water is released from the higher to the lower reservoir through turbines that generate electricity.
  • Offshore (marine). Although not an option for Indiana, technologies use the power of waves, tidal, and ocean currents.

There are currently five utility-operated hydroelectric facilities in Indiana. Each of these are run-of-river facilities, using the flow of the river.

UtilityFacility NameMWWater SourceCounty
I&MElkhart3.0St. Joseph RiverElkhard
I&MTwin Branch4.0St. Joseph RiverSt. Joseph
NIPSCONorway7.2Tippecanoe River; Lake ShaferWhite
NIPSCOOakdale9.2Tippecanoe River; Lake FreemanCarroll
Duke EnergyMarkland45.0Ohio RiverSwitzerland

Print Version of Fuel Facts: Hydroelectric Power