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What is the difference between micro, mini and small hydro?

Micro, mini and small hydro – What is the difference? The size designations for hydropower plants are a little misleading because, for example, a ‘mini’ hydro system could actually produce enough electricity for a thousand ‘average’ UK homes, which by most people’s standards is quite large! This anomaly in terminology has come about because hydropower really developed as a major large-scale energy producer so the designations were relative to very large ‘Gigawatt scale’ hydropower. There also isn’t a worldwide agreed definition, but the table below shows the most widely accepted categories. The table also shows the number of ‘average’ UK homes electrical energy needs met to put things in context.

Hydro Category Power Range No. of Homes Powered
Pico 0 kW – 5 kW 0 – 5
Micro 5 kW – 100 kW 5 – 100
Mini 100 kW – 1 MW 100 – 1,000
Small 1 MW – 10 MW 1,000 – 10,000
Medium 10 MW – 100 MW 10,000 – 100,000
Large 100 MW+ 100,000+

Strictly speaking Renewables First operates in the micro hydro and mini hydro categories, so from 5 kW to 1 MW power output, though because so many people refer to this scale of hydro as ‘small’ we also use this designation a lot.

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Are you considering a hydropower project in the UK, Ireland or overseas?

Renewables First have considerable experience as a hydro consultant and have a full project capability, from initial feasibility study through to system design and installation.

The first step to develop any small or micro hydropower site is to conduct a full feasibility study.

Contact us about a feasibility study today!

Once complete, you will understand the site potential and be guided through the next steps to develop your project. You can read more about hydropower in our Hydro Learning Centre.

Maximise the financial return of you hydropower system with GoFlo Travelling Screens. Find out more here.

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