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What is Small Scale (Micro) Hydro Power?

What is Micro Hydro Power?

Hydro electricity projects up to 100kw are classified as ‘micro power’ systems which are primarily used in remote locations where easy access to small streams or smaller rivers can justify the installation of the equipment.

How Does It Work?

Similar in concept to domestic wind turbines the kinetic energy of flowing water is used to rotate the turbine which is connected to a generator that converts the rotational energy into electricity.

The development of more efficient and lower cost turbines makes small scale hydro systems a more attractive proposition than before. In fact useable power can be farmed from just a small stream (low head system).

Will It Suit My House?

There are 2 types of system to consider, on-grid and off-grid. On-grid systems are connected to the national grid and any unused power sold back to your electricity company, off-grid is used purely as a stand alone power supply and can be a very economical solution for properties not connected to the grid and where connection would be prohibitively expensive, such as a remote farmhouse.

Obviously one important factor is whether you have a suitable water supply to power the turbine, a survey will be required to calculate the flow of water and head at the potential site, a KW figure can then be produced from this data enabling you to asses whether the system is justifiable.

How Much?

Costs are very site dependant, as a general rule of thumb you can budget for £4,000 per KW up to around 10KW of power for a low head system (small stream) and for a medium head system (large stream) a fixed starting cost of £10,000 and £2,500 per KW thereafter up to around 10KW.

Do I Require Planning Permission?

In conservation areas planning permission may be required, please consult your local authority for rules and regulations in your locality.


  • Can be used to power properties remote from the national grid.
  • Reliable supply compared to other renewable technologies.
  • Initial costs can be high, but might well be lower than a grid connection.
  • Little environmental impact, quiet and can be hidden.

Are Grants Available?

There are incentives available for hydro power via the Feed-In Tariff. Systems must be installed by an MCS accredited installer to qualify for this.

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