Inside the Generator
The heart of the hydroelectric power plant is the generator. Most hydropower plants have several of these generators.


Photo courtesy U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
The giant generators at Hoover Dam produce
more than 2,000 megawatts.

The generator, as you might have guessed, generates the electricity. The basic process of generating electricity in this manner is to rotate a series of magnets inside coils of wire. This process moves electrons, which produces electrical current.


Inside a hydropower plant generator

The Hoover Dam has a total of 17 generators, each of which can generate up to 133 megawatts. The total capacity of the Hoover Dam hydropower plant is 2,074 megawatts. Each generator is made of certain basic parts:

  • Shaft
  • Excitor
  • Rotor
  • Stator

As the turbine turns, the excitor sends an electrical current to the rotor. The rotor is a series of large electromagnets that spins inside a tightly-wound coil of copper wire, called the stator. The magnetic field between the coil and the magnets creates an electric current.

In the Hoover Dam, a current of 16,500 volts moves from the generator to the transformer, where the current ramps up to 230,000 volts before being transmitted.