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Hydro Power

An example of a hydro project

Hydro-power equipment harvests kinetic energy from moving water to produce mechanical power and to generate electricity. Farms often have easy access to lakes and ponds as well as naturally occurring streams and rivers. Micro-hydro systems—those that produce less than 100 kilowatts—can offer a 24-hour source of renewable energy as long as enough water is flowing. However, careful planning is required to ensure that micro-hydro systems are designed to protect fish and other parts of the aquatic ecology.

Hydro resources come in many different forms: excess pressure in gravity-flow irrigation systems; small meandering streams from pond overflow; rushing and steep mountain streams; and many other combinations of water flowing and dropping. Hydro projects can be designed to be low impact, nonconsumptive and capable of lasting 20 or more years. The publications and resources provided here will help guide you through the development of a micro-hydro project.

NOTE: Some of the following documents are available as Adobe Acrobat PDFs. Download Acrobat Reader.

ATTRA Publications

Micro-Hydro Power: A Beginners Guide to Design and Installation - IP383

PDF Price: $1.99 for non-members
Kindle Price: $1.99

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Micro-Hydro Power: Is It Right for My Farm? - IP384

PDF Price: $.99 for non-members
Kindle Price: $0.99

 • Summary • Buy PDF  • Buy Kindle • Buy Print Copy



See It On The Farm

Hydro Power for Gravity Flow Irrigation Systems

Other Hydro Power Publications and Links

Hydro Icon Hydro Siting and Design
Hydro Icon Legal and Financial Considerations
Hydro Icon General Hydro Resources


Hydro Siting and Design

Micro-Hydropower Systems - A Buyer's Guide
This publication from Natural Resources Canada provides step-by-step considerations for developing micro-hydro sites in Canada, and many of the considerations are also relevant for sites and systems located in the U.S. [PDF/4.2M]
Motors as Generators for Micro Hydropower
This guide by Nigel Smith for using induction (asynchronous) motors to generate electricity is very useful for designing and installing low-cost hydro systems. The book is available for purchase online from Practical Action Publishing and from other online book sites.
Pumps as Turbines: A User's Guide
This practical book by Arthur Williams explains how to use a standard water pump as an alternative to a water turbine. The book is available for purchase online from Practical Action Publishing and from other online book sites.
Small Hydropower Systems
This publication is an introductory fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Energy that discusses siting, project development, and other considerations for hydro-power systems. [PDF/325K]


Legal and Financial Considerations

Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE)
The databases on this website feature information on state, utility, and local government financial and regulatory incentives, as well as programs and policies designed to promote hydro power and other renewable-energy technologies.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
FERC is the agency responsible for the oversight of all hydro projects. The agency provides licensing exemptions and guidance on small hydro projects.
Free Software and Textbook on Micro-Hydropower Systems
RETScreen® International is a standardized renewable-energy-project analysis software program available from Natural Resources Canada. This program is designed to help you determine whether a micro-hydro system is a good investment. The software uses spreadsheets to help evaluate potential projects, including their legal aspects and financing. It comes with a comprehensive user's manual.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Depending on the specifics of your hydro-power project, it may require a Corps of Engineers permit. This website provides contact information for local district offices that can help you to obtain the necessary permits.


General Hydro Resources

Build It Solar ~ Small Scale Hydro
This website provides plans and resources to develop various types of hydro-power projects.
Coanda-Effect Screen Research
This website provides research, design guidance, and experience with Coanda screens.
Home Power Magazine
This subscription-based magazine has many articles on designing a do-it-yourself micro-hydro system.
How Hydroelectric Energy Works
A great outline by the Union of Concerned Scientists on how Hydroelectricity works.
Idaho National Laboratory Hydropower Page
This website provides an overview of hydro power in the U.S. and a GIS application to locate and evaluate hydro-power resources in naturally occurring streams.
Low Impact Hydropower Institute
The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides standards designed to reduce the impacts of hydropower generation through the certification of hydropower projects that have avoided or reduced their environmental impacts pursuant to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute's criteria.
Micro-Hydro Power
This fact sheet from Practical Action provides a basic introduction to the fundamental considerations and components of small hydro-power systems.
Micro-Hydro Power ~ Practical Action
Practical Action promotes small-scale hydro schemes that generate up to 500 kilowatts of power. They offer several good videos, fact sheets, case studies and publications on small-scale and micro-hydro in poor communities and rural areas throughout the world.
Micro-Hydro Web Portal
This website features a discussion group and literature on small hydro-power systems.
National Hydropower Association (NHA)
This organization seeks to secure hydro power's place as an emissions-free, renewable, and reliable energy source.
Pico Hydro Website
This website has information on designing, manufacturing, and installing very small (5 kilowatts or less) hydro-power systems.
U.S. Department of Energy Hydropower Program
This program provides information on current research and development of hydro-power technologies as well as on environmental issues.
U.S. Department of Energy: Water Power Program
This program provides resources and technical publications on various hydro technologies.
Water for Every Farm
This website and the book by P.A. Yeomans discuss the construction and use of on-farm irrigation dams in Australia.
Why Hydro Power?
This website, sponsored by Canyon Hydro, discusses hydro power and provides resources and information on small- and medium-scale hydro-power systems.


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This page was last updated on: May 20, 2016