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Micro Hydro power systems basics

Micro hydro-power systems involve projects up to 10 megawatts (MW) of capacity. They can provide power to isolated homes, small business owners and small communities.

Parts of a Micro Hydro System

Typical micro hydro electric systems belong to the run-of-the-river type, that is, they rely on a stream of water that is diverted to a channel or pipeline which delivers the water to a turbine (or to a pump or a waterwheel) where the power is generated.

Besides the turbine and the pipe system, run-of-the-river systems comprise also a generator, a controller (to control the generator) some wiring and an inverter, to convert direct current into alternating current (AC).

Micro HydroPower UnitCommon In Large Countries

Micro hydro power systems are relatively common worldwide, particularly in North America, China (which has surpassed Canada both in large and micro hydro systems), Brazil and Australia. 

Image: EERE

Home  & InsulationInvesting in a Micro Hydroelectric System

The costs of a small hydroelectric system are very site-specific. A simple 5 kW unit will cost at least $30,000-$50,000.

The payback varies with the hydro potential of the site and the size of the system.

The economic feasibility of small hydro electric projects depends on various factors, that should be carefully considered.

Professional Assessment

When considering the installation of a small hydro system, factors such as the amount of available water and factors such as water rights and legal issues are critical.

Energy Efficient HomesImprove Your Homes Energy Efficiency Prior to Deciding for a Hydro Electric System

Before deciding for a hydro-electric system you need to reduce your home's energy consumption to the minimum, in order to get a smaller and cheaper system.

See: Planning Small Hydro Electric Systems for Isolated Homes

Environmental Impact

Large hydro systems have a big impact on wildlife habitats, water quality and fish migration; but small hydro electric systems, properly designed, may not have any significant impact on these levels.


Small wind power system efficiencyPhotovoltaic and Wind Power Systems

Small wind power systems and small photovoltaic systems can be good alternatives to small hydro electric systems.

PV Photovoltaic Guide
Small Wind Electric Systems Guide


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More Information On Micro Hydro Power Systems

Planning Small Hydro Electric Systems for Isolated Homes

For technical details on how to determine the head and the flow of a hydropower site, see the page: Planning your hydro power system.
and the Canadian Buyer’s Guide for Hydropower systems

USA and Canada
American Water Resources Association 
Canadian Hydropower Association
National Hydropower Association (USA) 
US Hydropower Council for International Development 
Northwest Hydroelectric Association
European Small Hydropower Association 
Energy Saving Trust Advice Centre (United Kingdom) 
British Hydro Association (technological questions)
China and India (and Brazil or Russia), are top hydropower producers - China is already the top hydroelectric-generating country, ahead of Canada.

In India, contact the India Hydropower Association.

In China, the Hangzhou Regional Center for Small Hydro Power has a site in English that may help you.





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