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Ever-expanding interest in renewable energy systems, from small wind to solar, has led to a renewed interest in one of the oldest and most established types of renewable energy: hydropower. When most people think of hydropower, they imagine the Hoover Dam or other large-scale installations. Hydroelectricity can also work on a much smaller scale. This module focuses on micro-hydroelectricity (micro-hydro), designed for homeowners and agricultural operators to reduce purchased electricity use, much like a small wind or solar electric system.
Although a total drop (head) of as little as three feet can be utilized for a micro-hydropower system, generally a high volume of flow or a head of at least 10 feet are required for a viable system.
Although low and seasonal (e.g. irrigation) flows can be utilized, the greater the flow the better.
Under strong Western water laws, simply having water crossing your property does not give the landowner the right to utilize it.
The closer the electric load, such as a home or irrigation system, to the hydroelectric resource, the lower the cost and greater the efficiency.
Although many micro-hydro systems may present an attractive financial return, especially where they use existing infrastructure such as irrigation civil works, micro-hydropower receives relatively few financial incentives and does require some maintenance.