Small Hydropower Benefits

In summary, hydroelectric systems provide the following general benefits and key facts:

  • Hydropower has an almost ten-fold greater energy payback ratio than any other generating technology. It is the overwhelming winner by this criterion.[3]
  • Run-of-River hydropower is non-polluting - no heat or noxious gases are released.
  • Small hydro schemes have minimum visual impact on their surrounding environment.
  • Hydropower, after 150 years as an electricity generating source, is still one of the most inexpensive ways to generate power.
  • A high efficiency (70 - 90%), by far the best of all energy technologies.
  • A high capacity factor (typically >50%), compared with 10% for solar and 30% for wind.
  • A high level of predictability, varying with annual rainfall patterns.
  • Slow rate of change; the output power varies only gradually from day to day (not from minute to minute).
  • It is a long-lasting and robust technology; systems can readily be engineered to last for 50 years or more.
  • Hydroelectric energy has no fuel cost and with low operating and maintenance costs, it is essentially inflation proof.
  • Hydropower offers a means of responding within seconds to changes in load demand.

[3] Energy Payback Ratio, L. Gagnon, Hydro-Québec Factsheet, July 2005

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