Few sources of energy are as sustainable, clean and cost-effective as hydroelectric energy. Hydroelectricity, also known as hydropower, is used in over 150 countries on a large scale as a cost-effective, clean form of electricity.
While people usually associate hydropower with large dams, it’s also possible to generate hydroelectric energy using small-scale turbine systems to power private homes, communities, farms and even commercial buildings.
Small-scale hydroelectric systems are known as micro-hydro – a term specifically for hydroelectric power systems that generate between five and 100 kilowatts of electricity.
Unlike solar and wind energy, which have only become viable options in the last decade, hydro-energy systems have been used for millennia, from water wheels in Ancient Greece to dams in the early decades of the 20th century.
While hydroelectric energy is less common than residential and commercial wind and solar energy, it’s an extremely viable option for communities and businesses with access to a steady supply of falling water.
Are you interested in micro-hydro technology? Read on to learn more about this clean, cost-effective and sustainable source of energy.
How does micro-hydro energy work?
The technology used in micro-hydro installations hasn’t changed all that much since it was first used in hydroelectric dams early in the 20th century.
Hydropower systems use the weight and motion of falling water to rotate a turbine and generate electricity. Using modern micro-hydro technology, it’s possible for a hydroelectric system to generate electricity without using a traditional dam.
Most micro-hydro systems divert water from a river or local stream. This water is channelled into a penstock – a special type of pipe that can be used to control the rate at which water falls into the electrical turbine.
The water in the penstock flows down towards a turbine, rotating the turbine and powering a generator. This generator produces electricity that can be used in local homes, farms and other properties.
Once the water has been used to rotate the turbine and generate electricity, it flows back into the stream. This means that, aside from temporarily diverting water, most micro-hydro systems have no significant impact on the local environment.
The amount of electricity a micro-hydro system can generate varies based on three factors. These are the amount of head (the “height” of the system), the flow rate of the stream or river and the total capacity of the micro-hydro turbine.
What are the biggest benefits of micro-hydro?
Micro-hydro systems offer numerous advantages over non-renewable sources of energy. Hydroelectric power also has some unique advantages over other types of renewable energy, such as wind and solar:
- Micro-hydro systems have a very small environmental impact. Since water is only diverted temporarily to rotate the turbine and power a generator, most micro-hydro systems are even more eco-friendly than large-scale hydro.
- Unlike solar panels and wind turbines, which only generate energy when a steady supply or sunshine or wind is available, micro-hydro systems work around-the-clock to produce a consistent supply of electricity.
- Micro-hydro systems are designed for predictability. Like solar photovoltaic panels, micro-hydro systems require very little maintenance and operate on their own without significant human involvement.
- Micro-hydro systems are quiet and unobtrusive. Residential hydroelectric systems can be installed a reasonable distance from nearby homes, making their impact significantly lower than a wind turbine or solar panel system.
- Hydroelectric energy is extremely cost effective. Micro-hydro systems have one of the lowest watt-hour costs of all renewable energy systems, making them a fantastic investment for farms and residential communities.
Can a micro-hydro turbine power an entire home?
Yes! Micro-hydro turbines are available in a range of sizes, from small systems that can power the typical home to large systems capable of generating sufficient energy to power an entire community.
The electrical output of a micro-hydro turbine depends on two factors: the amount of head and the amount of flow available to a micro-hydro system.
Head refers to the difference in height between the top of the micro-hydro system – the point at which water enters – and the point at which water exits the system. The greater the distance, the greater the amount of energy that can be generated.
Flow, on the other hand, refers to the volume of water that travels into the micro-hydro system, on average, throughout its operation. Flow is rarely consistent – in most streams and rivers, it varies from one season to another.
Greater flow means a great capacity to produce electricity. A micro-hydro energy system with a large head – the distance between the top and bottom of the system – and sufficient flow can power a farm, building or even a rural community.
The size of your micro-hydro system also has an effect on its energy production. A large micro-hydro system with sufficient head and flow can generate more than a smaller, lower capacity system.
Because these three factors affect the total electricity generation capabilities of a micro-hydro system, it’s important to choose the right turbine – in addition to the right site – to generate enough power to meet your needs.
Hydropower systems can also be used alongside solar and wind power. This means that you can use a combination of systems – for example, solar and hydro – to give your property a steady, consistent and reliable supply of renewable electricity.
Are you interested in micro-hydro energy?
If your property is located close to a stream or river and local regulations allow you to install a micro-hydro turbine, you might be able to generate renewable energy to power your home using micro-hydro technology.
Hydroelectricity offers numerous advantages, from low costs and a steady supply of electricity to an absolutely minimal environmental impact that doesn’t contribute to climate change.
We offer a range of micro-hydro energy systems for use in residential or commercial properties. We also offer other renewable energy technology, such as wind turbines and solar photovoltaic panels.
Contact us to speak to our renewable energy experts and learn more about installing a micro-hydro energy system on your property to generate clean, free electricity.