One of the most important ways of generating energy comes from running water. And it's not just from the large dams and dramatic waterfalls that come to mind when we think of hydroelectricity. There are also small-scale hydropower systems available for homes, farms, parks, and remote locations that are clean and efficient.
Micro-hydro systems are a great source of renewable energy. Their impact on an area's natural setting and wildlife is minimal too. Micro-hydro systems don't use dams to store and direct water, making them a healthier environmental alternative to large hydroelectric stations. By simply capitalizing on the continuous energy released by running water, micro-hydro systems are among the most resourceful sources of renewable energy.
Most micro-hydro systems can generate a maximum of 100 kilowatts of electricity. With this type generating capacity, they will produce enough energy to run telecommunication systems, lighting equipment, or even small farming machinery. There are three types of systems with varying generating capacity:
- Micro Hydro: Less than 100 kW
- Mini Hydro: 100 kW to 1000 kW (or 1 Megawatt-MW)
- Small Hydro: 1 MW to 10 M
A micro-hydro system takes advantage of running water by directing it through a turbine that works with a generator to create electricity. From there, the electricity is delivered to its end user through transmission lines.
Depending on the site of the micro-hydro system, an "intake" or "weir" may be needed to help divert water flow toward the turbine. Furthermore, many micro-hydro systems come with a "trash rack." By acting like a large filter, this device helps keep the turbine free of debris and other material. Finally, after water passes through the turbine, it reaches a "tailrace" which releases water back into the stream or river.
The best areas for micro-hydro systems are those with stable water runs and steep hills that help increase overall water flow. If you have identified a potential micro-hydro site, you should conduct a feasibility study. It will measure your site's water flow rate, yearly water levels, and evaluate the area's geographical layout. By assembling this information, you can get an accurate idea about the potential of your micro-hydro system.
To get more information about micro-hydro systems, please visit Natural Resources Canada.