Micro hydro power is a form of small scale hydroelectric power, which is particularly suitable in remote communities as a source of energy. Installation can be a small dammed pool at the top of a waterfall, connected to a generator via a few hundred feet of pipes. Micro hydro power systems work well in combination with solar voltaic energy systems, as micro hydro power requires water flow which is more readily available in winter, whereas solar voltaic systems work best in summer. Micro hydro power systems convert water-powered energy which is used to turn a turbine to produce electricity. The energy available depends on the water flow rate.
Micro hydro power requires that a domestic property is located near to the source or close to a grid connection. The system can be connected to a main electricity grid or as a stand alone, off-grid system. If connected to a grid, excess electricity produced may be sold to an electricity company. An off-grid system will supply electricity to devices via a battery bank and inverter system.
The cost of running power with a micro hydro power system depends on energy output. If there is an existing weir or pond, costs are around £4,000 per kw installed, for low head systems. For medium head systems, a cost of £10,000 plus a further £2,500 per kw is charged. The typical output of a micro hydro power system is 5kw, and would cost around £20,000-£25,000 to install. Maintenance costs are minimal as micro hydro power systems are extremely reliable.
Grants are available, but to be eligible you must use a certified installer and certified products. Grants of £1,000 per kw up to a maximum of £2,500 or 30% of the total installation costs are awarded.
There are considerable benefits and gains to be had by installing micro hydro power systems. They are not only a clean source of energy, but are energy efficient, and at a rate of 70-90% efficiency, they are the best of all energy technologies. They also have a high capacity factor of more than 50%, which compares favourably against solar at 10% and wind at 30%. The system has a slow rate of change, meaning that it may vary from day to day, but not from hour to hour. Micro hydro power systems are extremely robust, and built to last for at least 50 years. Micro systems do not store water, unlike macro systems, and therefore are not damaging the local environment.
For houses without a mains electricity system but access to a micro hydro site, an energy site is extremely cheap. Apart from the installation costs which can be quite high but often less than a grid connection, there are no electricity bills to pay. Planning permission may be required via a local authority. Micro hydro power is an excellent system for energy supply where the right conditions are available.