“There is no life without water,” states the European Water Charter. This is certainly true: our own bodies are 60% water, while the figure for our brains and hearts is 73%, and that for our lungs is 83%. There is a similar percentage for the Planet we live on: it is 70% water.
Water is life and is one of the oldest natural energy sources used by humans. Since ancient times, the power of moving water has also been harnessed for its capacity for energy generation.
At Enel, our goal is to generate renewable energy by reducing the use of water for energy production as much as possible. From hydroelectric innovation to harnessing the power of waves for sustainable progress, Enel is celebrating International Water Day 2022 by highlighting the symbiosis between this vital element and energy. Our commitment to a number of solutions guarantees the management and access to this resource in an innovative and sustainable way.
A symbiotic relationship that is more than 4 millennia old
The energy that water provides has accompanied human beings in their progress throughout history. For centuries, the water wheel, an invention dating back 4,000 years, which was later used masterfully by the Romans, made it possible for people to harness the motive power of the so-called "blue gold" for countless applications: from establishing irrigation systems for agriculture to grinding wheat or making paper, the power of water has always driven mankind forward.
Water was first used to generate electricity thanks to the progress made in hydraulic turbines. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries and the increase in electricity demand at the beginning of the 20th century, it became the main driver for the development of the electric generator and the improvement of the hydraulic turbine to increase the power and energy produced by these plants.
Today, what we currently call hydroelectric power is the energy produced by water. This is considered the first of all renewable energies, but it isn’t the only one associated with water, as there are many others such as tidal power or marine energy, electrolysis, osmosis and electricity from storms.
Innovation, the main driver of hydroelectric power at Enel
All types of hydroelectric power plants use the force of gravity to provide acceleration for water and release all the potential energy it stores. Nowadays, hydropower is one of the largest renewable energy sources in the world. According to the 2021 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, it represents more than 50% of total renewable energy sources.
For Enel, hydroelectric power is one of the main sources of renewable energy: it is responsible for 34% of the total energy produced by the Group and approximately 70% of renewables.
Innovation and sustainability are part of Enel's DNA and hydropower is a key element in this chain, taking advantage of the opportunities offered by new technologies to optimize the efficiency, safety and sustainability of all our processes. Today, power plants are equipped with increasingly advanced digital systems for management, monitoring and maintenance.
To this end, Enel has developed several projects, such as WIreless Sensors for hYdro monitoring (WISY), which consists of a network of sensors that can collect and transmit information from a hydroelectic plant in real time. The project also uses drones for monitoring and maintaining the quality assurance of hydroelectric power plants.
Furthermore, there are innovative projects that harness the power of water without focusing on gravity and slopes. The idea is to harness the energy of waves, water currents and tides. This so-called tidal power is often considered to be on the fringes of pure hydroelectric power, but it is still a green and renewable source that has many similarities.
According to our Group's philosophy, innovation must always be geared toward sustainability. For this reason, our hydroelectric plants are also centers that protect the environment and biodiversity, in addition to helping in their regeneration and conservation.