Hydro power is generated when running water from a river, stream, canal system or reservoir passes through a turbine, causing its blades to spin, which in turn rotates a generator to produce electricity.
With small hydro applications (less than 50 MW), a large dam is not necessarily required, resulting in minimal environmental impacts. Greenhouse gas emissions from this type of generation are almost non-existent.
Only areas with sufficient waterways to support this technology will be able to use it. Areas that could benefit from small hydro are remote off-grid communities, fishing lodges and lumber camps.
Economics of small hydro
Small hydro applications have the potential to become cost effective because they require minimal infrastructure. Even though small hydro is a proven, low-risk technology, incentives and subsidies are not as readily available as for other renewable generation and therefore, cost per unit of energy remains high. In addition, fluctuations in seasonal water flow can affect generation output.