Micro-Hydropower Systems

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research


What it is

Micro-hydropower systems are small-scale hydropower plants that generate electricity from rivers, streams, or irrigation canals with low head (vertical drop). These systems typically have a capacity of less than 100 kW and are designed to provide a decentralized and renewable energy source for rural communities, off-grid applications, and remote areas.

Impact on climate action

Micro-Hydropower Systems under the Hydropower theme bolster climate action by providing decentralized, renewable energy solutions. By harnessing local water resources, these systems reduce reliance on fossil fuels, mitigate carbon emissions, and promote energy independence, contributing to a more sustainable and resilient energy infrastructure while mitigating climate change impacts.

Underlying
Technology

  • Turbine Types: Different types of turbines are used in micro-hydropower systems, including:
    • Pelton turbines: These turbines are suitable for high-head applications with low flow rates.
    • Turgo turbines: These turbines are a variation of Pelton turbines and can handle higher flow rates.
    • Cross-flow turbines: These turbines are suitable for medium-head applications with varying flow rates.
    • Kaplan and propeller turbines: These turbines are used for low-head applications with high flow rates.
  • Water Conveyance Systems: These systems, such as penstocks or channels, direct water from the source to the turbine.
  • Powerhouse: The powerhouse houses the turbine, generator, and other equipment needed to convert the mechanical energy from the turbine into electricity.
  • Control Systems: Micro-hydropower systems often have simple control systems to regulate turbine speed and generator output.
  • Environmental Considerations: Micro-hydropower systems need to be designed and deployed in a way that minimizes their impact on aquatic ecosystems and fish populations.

TRL : 7-8

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Modular and Prefabricated Systems: Modular and prefabricated micro-hydropower systems are being developed to reduce installation time and costs, making them more accessible for remote communities and developing countries.
  • Low-Head Turbine Designs: Innovations in turbine design are improving the efficiency and performance of micro-hydropower systems in low-head applications.
  • Fish-Friendly Turbine Designs: Turbine designs that minimize fish mortality are being developed to reduce the environmental impact of micro-hydropower systems.
  • Hybrid Micro-Hydropower Systems: Combining micro-hydropower with other renewable energy sources, such as solar PV or wind power, can create hybrid systems that offer increased energy generation consistency and improved reliability.
  • Community-Based Micro-Hydropower Projects: Community-based projects are empowering local communities to develop and manage their own micro-hydropower systems, promoting energy independence and sustainable development.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Modular and Prefabricated Systems
  • Low-Head Turbine Designs
  • Fish-Friendly Turbine Designs
  • Hybrid Micro-Hydropower Systems
  • Community-Based Micro-Hydropower Projects
  • Performance Optimization
  • Remote Installation Techniques
  • Cross-Flow Turbine Innovations
  • Turbine Efficiency Enhancements
  • Control System Innovations
  • Off-Grid Integration Methods
  • Grid-Tied Application Advancements

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Emrgy:
    • Technology Enhancement: Emrgy specializes in distributed hydrokinetic turbine systems designed for micro-hydropower generation in waterways such as rivers and canals. Their innovative vertical axis turbines harness the kinetic energy of flowing water to generate electricity, offering a scalable and environmentally friendly solution for renewable energy generation.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Emrgy stands out for its focus on compact and modular hydrokinetic turbine systems suitable for decentralized energy generation in urban and remote areas. Their systems are designed to minimize environmental impact and provide reliable power generation from low-flow water sources, offering a sustainable alternative to traditional hydropower.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Emrgy serves a wide range of end-users seeking renewable energy solutions, including municipalities, industrial facilities, agricultural operations, and remote communities. Their micro-hydropower systems are deployed in waterways worldwide, providing clean and resilient energy generation for off-grid applications, grid stabilization, and distributed energy projects.
  • Turbulent:
    • Technology Enhancement: Turbulent specializes in innovative micro-hydropower solutions based on vortex turbines designed for small-scale water flows. Their turbines utilize a patented design to harness the energy of flowing water efficiently, even in low-head or low-flow conditions. Turbulent’s systems are modular and can be installed in various waterways, offering decentralized energy generation with minimal environmental impact.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Turbulent stands out for its focus on low-cost and environmentally friendly micro-hydropower solutions suitable for rural and remote communities, farms, and small businesses. Their vortex turbines require no dam construction or large infrastructure, making them ideal for decentralized energy projects and off-grid applications.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Turbulent serves customers in rural areas, agricultural communities, and developing regions seeking reliable and sustainable energy solutions. Their micro-hydropower systems provide electricity for irrigation, water pumping, and community electrification, helping to improve livelihoods and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Hydrovolts:
    • Technology Enhancement: Hydrovolts specializes in compact and efficient micro-hydropower systems designed for low-flow waterways such as canals and irrigation channels. Their patented flipwing turbine technology harnesses the energy of flowing water to generate electricity, offering a cost-effective and scalable solution for distributed energy generation.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Hydrovolts stands out for its flipwing turbine technology, which allows for high-efficiency power generation from low-velocity water flows. Their systems are modular and easy to install, making them suitable for a wide range of applications, including agricultural irrigation, wastewater treatment, and rural electrification.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Hydrovolts serves customers in agriculture, water management, and rural electrification sectors seeking sustainable and decentralized energy solutions. Their micro-hydropower systems provide reliable and clean electricity for irrigation pumps, water treatment plants, and remote communities, contributing to energy access and environmental stewardship.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU):
    • Research Focus: NTNU is at the forefront of research on Micro-Hydropower Systems, focusing on developing compact, efficient, and environmentally sustainable hydropower solutions suitable for small-scale applications in remote or off-grid areas.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the design, optimization, and testing of micro-hydropower turbines, generators, and control systems tailored to local hydrological conditions and energy demand profiles. They also explore innovative approaches for integrating micro-hydropower with energy storage, grid interconnection, and rural electrification initiatives to maximize system reliability and impact.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in rural electrification, community-based energy projects, and sustainable development. By harnessing the power of small-scale hydropower, NTNU’s research contributes to improving energy access, livelihoods, and socio-economic development in underserved regions, while minimizing environmental impacts and enhancing resilience to climate change.
  • Kathmandu University (Nepal):
    • Research Focus: Kathmandu University conducts pioneering research on Micro-Hydropower Systems, leveraging its expertise in renewable energy engineering, water resources management, and rural electrification to develop tailored solutions for decentralized energy generation in mountainous and rural areas.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the design, fabrication, and field testing of micro-hydropower plants, including low-head turbines, cross-flow turbines, and pico-hydropower systems suitable for small streams and rivers. They also explore community engagement, capacity building, and policy advocacy to promote sustainable hydropower development and ensure local ownership and benefit-sharing.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in agriculture, agro-processing, and off-grid electrification. By harnessing the untapped hydropower potential of Nepal’s mountainous terrain, Kathmandu University’s research contributes to reducing energy poverty, fostering rural development, and empowering marginalized communities with clean, reliable, and affordable electricity.
  • University of Rwanda:
    • Research Focus: The University of Rwanda is engaged in innovative research on Micro-Hydropower Systems, leveraging its expertise in renewable energy technology, hydrological modeling, and sustainable development to address energy access challenges and promote green growth in Rwanda and the wider East African region.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves conducting site assessments, feasibility studies, and techno-economic analyses to identify suitable locations for micro-hydropower development and optimize system design and operation. They also explore policy frameworks, regulatory mechanisms, and public-private partnerships to facilitate investment in micro-hydropower projects and enhance their socio-economic and environmental sustainability.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in rural electrification, irrigation, and water supply. By harnessing the power of micro-hydropower, the University of Rwanda’s research supports Rwanda’s vision of becoming a climate-resilient, low-carbon economy, while improving energy access, livelihoods, and environmental sustainability.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Micro-hydropower systems are being implemented in various locations around the world, providing clean and reliable electricity to rural communities, off-grid applications, and remote areas. For example, many villages in Nepal and other mountainous regions rely on micro-hydropower systems for their electricity needs.