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Hydro Electric

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Hydro Generated Electric Power.

If you have at least a seasonal creek, with flows of 10 gallons per minute, a minimum vertical drop of 20 or more feet, and it is located within a few hundred feet from your house or power shed, then a microhydro system is for you. For those who are lucky enough to have a good site, hydro is the choice energy system, generating the most power at the lowest cost per watt.


Great Solar Works! hydro systems are designed for the amount of power needed, seasonal or perennial flow of available water, and grid-tied or off-grid application. Like all of our power and heating systems, they are designed to achieve the maximum efficiency, reliability, longetivity and to minimize maintenance. We will design your system based on these parameters:

• Site quality (seasonal or perennial creek, canal, flowing water within few hundred feet of user)

• Head (the vertical distance between the intake and turbine)
• Flow (how much water comes down the stream)
• Pipeline (penstock) length (see graphic below)
• Electrical transmission line length (from turbine to building or battery bank)


Small hydroelectric power or hydropower is generated by harnessing flowing water downhill in a 2" to 4" plastic pipe, to jet through a nozzle and spin an alternator converting the kinetic energy to electricity. Micro or small hydropower systems produce less than 25 kilowatts of power. 10 kilowatts systems will power most residences, ranches, or small businesses. Like grid-tied solar pv electric power systems, microhydro power systems can sometimes sell excess power at wholesale rates to the utility company.


Industrial hydro power plants use dams to control flow velocity and head (vertical drop) to generate electricty. Micro hydropower systems typically use flowing water to turn a turbine, pump, or waterwheel. Other system components include an inverter to convert DC electricity produced by the system into 120 or 240 volts of AC electricity.

micro hydro durango hermosa silverton renewable energy contractor
(From Dept. of Energy EERE)
micro hydroelectric small hydro electric power system

Summary of small hydro components:

  • Water channel, pipeline, or pressurized pipeline (penstock) that delivers the water

  • Turbine, pump, or waterwheel—transforms the energy of flowing water into rotational energy

  • Alternator or generator—transforms the rotational energy into electricity

  • Regulator—controls the generator

  • Wiring—delivers the electricity

  • Batteries--to store electicty if desired


Highly Recommended Resources:

Link: HomePower Magazine Micro Hydro Electricity Basics web site with diagrams and definitions.


Link: Dept. of Energy EERE Residential Microhydro Power web site.


Link: Dept. of Energy EERE web page describing of turbines, pumps, and waterwheels.

[Downloading Hint: RIGHT-click on the desired version and select "SAVE/ SAVE TARGET AS/SAVE LINK AS" to save to your hard drive. Open the files from their saved location on your hard drive.]

Download: Microhydro-Electric Systems Simplified, Cunningham & Woofenden, HomePower Magazine #117, Feb/Mar 2007

Great Solar Works! designs and installs solar, wind and hydro on-site power generation systems and
energy efficient pumping and heating technologies for off-grid and grid-tied locations.
© 2017 Great Solar Works! Stellar Installations and Great Service in Colorado and beyond
TEL: 208.721.7003| design@solarwork.com
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