Homeowner’s Guide to Microhydropower

Updated: Jul. 27, 2023

Looking for an environmentally-friendly renewable energy system to lower your utility bills? Check if you're a good candidate for microhydropower.

In this time of increasing utility bills, many families are desperately searching for ways to lessen their reliance on energy companies. Microhydropower is becoming a popular option for houses near lakes, rivers and streams.

Microhydropower refers to a small-scale power system that generates electricity from flowing water. It typically produces less than 100 kilowatts of electricity, making it suitable for powering small communities, farms or remote locations where access to the power grid is limited or non-existent.

How Does Microhydropower Work?

According to the United States Department of Energy, a dam or weir redirects water into a pipeline or penstock. The pipeline leads to a turbine that converts the water’s kinetic energy into mechanical energy. That energy is then transmitted to a generator which converts it into electrical energy, usually alternating current (AC).  From there, it’s stored in batteries or fed directly into an electrical grid.

Intake screens, gates, and control valves regulate the flow of water and protect the system from debris and other hazards.

Pros and Cons of Microhydropower

While microhydropwer is a fantastic option for eligible customers, it comes with drawbacks and limitations.


  • Eco-friendly: It doesn’t emit greenhouse gases or other pollutants.
  • Renewable energy: It isn’t depleted over time.
  • Reduced energy costs: Users rely less on the electrical grid.


  • Location restrictions: Because it requires a suitable water source with a consistent flow rate, it can’t be installed everywhere.
  • High upfront cost: Equipment and infrastructure, like pipelines and turbines, can be expensive.
  • Permitting and regulatory requirements: Installation usually requires permits and approval from local authorities.
  • Maintenance requirements: Keeping the system running can be challenging in remote locations.

How Much Does Microhydropower Installation Cost?

It varies depending on the system’s size, location and the required infrastructure. In general, it can range from $4,000 to $6,000 per kilowatt. It will cost an average household around $20,000, according to greenlivingnation.com. Besides installation, there are ongoing maintenance costs as well.

Installation costs can sometimes be offset by government-backed incentive programs through tax credits, rebates and feed-in tariffs.