Requirements for Small Scale Hydropower

tInstalling a microhydro system on an existing legacy dam involves many steps. Dam owners will have to consider each of the areas below when deciding microhydro is right for you.


Sawkill Project 

Bard College is the owner of two small dams along the Saw Kill, and is investigating the possibility of converting those dams to productive use for low impact hydropower production. Interested in learning more? Read the most recent blog posts and updates here.

Erik Kiviat, Hudsonia Hudsonia has continued the Saw Kill studies initiated in 2017 in connection with Bard’s exploration of microhydro power on the stream. The accompanying report relates our findings in 2020. Despite hindrances and delays due to pandemic restrictions, we were able to achieve good […]
Emily White, Research Associate, Bard College/Hudsonia Despite the benefits of hydropower as a renewable source of energy, the use of dams is controversial. Negative environmental impacts, particularly for large hydropower systems, are of concern. However, the potential exists for systems that are designed to be ecologically […]
Jan Borchert, Current Hydro Submitting an application for exemption from Licensing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is a complex endeavor, where details can decide if FERC accepts the application, or not. Here is an update on the Annandale permitting process, revolving around the latest […]

Options for Small Scale Dams

Check out the most commonly asked questions about microhydro.

What is Micro Hydropower?

Micro hydropower refers to hydroelectric systems that produce up to 100 kilowatts of electricity. Most of the hydropower systems used by homeowners and small business owners, including farmers and ranchers, would qualify as micro hydropower systems. “Micro” refers to systems up to 100 kilowatts, but a 10-kilowatt micro hydropower system can generally provide enough power for a large home, a small resort, or a hobby farm.


Is power from a micro hydropower system considered clean energy?

Hydropower is considered “clean energy” because it is produced without the burning of fossil fuels. However, a micro hydropower system can have other environmental impacts at the site of the system and further downstream.

What are the environmental impacts of a micro hydropower system?

Micro hydropower systems are one of the lowest CO2 sources of energy that are available. The reason that hydropower has an effect on GHG is not the power generation itself, but the changes made to surface land and water in order to generate hydropower, particularly when the reservoir is new. However, a micro hydro facility might use no sizable impoundment of water, or at least a much smaller reservoir that covers a smaller area, much of which may have been rocky stream beds before. The increased contribution of GHG is most pronounced in the earliest years after the reservoir has been established. A micro hydro installation on a dam that has been in place for decades would not be likely to introduce significant new GHG sources.