Micro Hydro Systems
Micro hydro is a type of hydroelectric power that typically produce up to 100 kW of electricity using the natural flow of water. These installations can provide power to an isolated home or small community, or are sometimes connected to electric power networks. There are many of these installations around the world, particularly in developing nations as they can provide an economical source of energy without the purchase of fuel. Micro hydro systems complement photovoltaic solar energy systems because in many areas, water flow, and thus available hydro power, is highest in the winter when solar energy is at a minimum. Micro hydro is frequently accomplished with a pelton wheel for high head, low flow water supply. The installation is often just a small dammed pool, at the top of a waterfall, with several hundred feet of pipe leading to a small generator housing.
Micro hydro systems generate energy through a process that utilizes the natural flow of water. This energy is most commonly converted into electricity. With no direct emissions resulting from this conversion process, there are little to no harmful effects on the environment, if planned well, thus supplying power from a renewable source and in a sustainable manner. Micro hydro is considered a “run-of-river” system meaning that water diverted from the stream or river is redirected back into the same watercourse. Adding to the potential economic benefits of micro hydro systems are efficiency, reliability, and cost effectiveness.
Micro hydro systems are limited mainly by characteristics of the site. The most direct limitation comes from small sources with minuscule flow. Likewise, flow can fluctuate seasonally in some areas. Lastly, though perhaps the foremost disadvantage is the distance from the power source to the site in need of energy. This distributional issue as well as the others are key when considering using a micro hydro system.