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Planning a microhydropower system

This article, Planning a microhydropower system, produced by the US Department of Energy (DOE), details the steps you need to take in order to install a microhydropower system on your property. Microhydropower systems are small hydroelectric power systems of less than 100 kilowatts (kW) used to produce mechanical energy or electricity for farms, ranches, homes, and villages.

All hydropower systems use the energy of flowing water to produce electricity or mechanical energy. Although there are several ways to harness moving water to produce energy, ‘run-of-the-river systems’, which do not require large storage reservoirs, are most often used for microhydropower systems.

For run-of-the-river microhydropower systems, a portion of a river’s water is diverted to a water conveyance—a channel, pipeline, or pressurized pipeline (called a penstock)—that delivers it to a turbine or waterwheel. The moving water rotates the wheel or turbine, which spins a shaft. The motion of the shaft can be used for mechanical processes, such as pumping water, or it can be used to power an alternator or generator to generate electricity.

To build a microhydropower system, you need access to flowing water on your property. A sufficient quantity of falling water must be available, which usually, but not always, means that hilly or mountainous sites are best. Other considerations for a potential microhydropower site include its power output, economics, permits, and water rights.

Access the information sheet for building a microdydropower site.