There are three types of hydropower facilities: impoundment, diversion, and pumped storage. Some hydropower plants use dams and some do not.
Although not all dams were built for hydropower, they have proven useful for pumping tons of renewable energy to the grid. In the United States, there are more than 90,000 dams, of which less than 2,300 produce power as of 2020. The other dams are used for recreation, stock/farm ponds, flood control, water supply, and irrigation.
Hydropower plants range in size from small systems suitable for a single home or village to large projects producing electricity for utilities. Learn more about the sizes of hydropower plants.
The most common type of hydroelectric power plant is an impoundment facility. An impoundment facility, typically a large hydropower system, uses a dam to store river water in a reservoir. Water released from the reservoir flows through a turbine, spinning it, which in turn activates a generator to produce electricity. The water may be released to meet changing electricity needs or other needs, such as flood control, recreation, fish passage, and other environmental and water quality needs.