Micro-Hydro

Overview

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Ever-expanding interest in renewable energy systems, from small wind to solar, has led to a renewed interest in one of the oldest and most established types of renewable energy: hydropower. When most people think of hydropower, they imagine the Hoover Dam or other large-scale installations. Hydroelectricity can also work on a much smaller scale. This module focuses on micro-hydroelectricity (micro-hydro), designed for homeowners and agricultural operators to reduce purchased electricity use, much like a small wind or solar electric system.

1. Do you have access to flowing water on your property?

Although a total drop (head) of as little as three feet can be utilized for a micro-hydropower system, generally a high volume of flow or a head of at least 10 feet are required for a viable system.

2. Does the water resource have adequate flow?

Although low and seasonal (e.g. irrigation) flows can be utilized, the greater the flow the better.

3. Do you have the legal right to utilize the water?

Under strong Western water laws, simply having water crossing your property does not give the landowner the right to utilize it.

4. Do you have an electric load within one mile of the resource?

The closer the electric load, such as a home or irrigation system, to the hydroelectric resource, the lower the cost and greater the efficiency.

5. Are you willing to invest money and some maintenance time into a system to generate electricity for your home, farm, or ranch?

Although many micro-hydro systems may present an attractive financial return, especially where they use existing infrastructure such as irrigation civil works, micro-hydropower receives relatively few financial incentives and does require some maintenance.