The first hydroelectric power project in India was started in Darjeeling in 1898.
The glacial burst in Uttarakhand on February 7 washed off a 13.2-megawatt (MW) Rishi Ganga power project and caused serious damages to the NTPC-owned 520 MW Tapovan Vishnugad project. With around 150 workers feared dead, the incident is considered as one of the worst dam failures in the history of India.
Here is an explainer on the status of hydro-electric power projects in India.
How does a hydroelectric power plant work?
A hydroelectric power plant consists of a dam built across a large river to create a reservoir and a power station where energy is converted to electricity. The water flowing through the dam turns a large wheel called turbine, that converts the energy of falling water into mechanical energy. Following this electricity is generated, and it is transferred through transmission lines, while water is released back to the water body.
Status of hydroelectric power generation in India
Globally, around 2,700 terawatt hour (TWH) of power is generated from hydro sources. The first hydroelectric power project in India was started in Darjeeling in 1898.
At present, India’s total installed power capacity is 375.32 gigawatt (GW) as of December 2020. Out of this, only 12 percent, or 45.8 GW, is coming from hydroelectric power projects. Still majority of the power generated in India is coming from thermal sources, especially coal, that makes up to 53 percent, or 199.9 GW, of the total installed capacity.
Though the renewable sector got momentum after the 2000s, the current share of the renewable power is 24 percent, or 91.15 GW.
Based on data available with the Central Electricity Authority, Uttarakhand’s power generation capacity stands at 3.65 GW, out of which 54 percent, around 1.97 GW, is hydroelectric.
Potential of hydroelectric power
In terms of installed capacity, India is the fifth largest producer of hydroelectric power in the world after China, Brazil, US and Canada. As per the government estimates, the total hydroelectric power potential of India is around 145 GW. This means only 32 percent of the hydroelectric power potential is utilised in India at present.