For small hydroelectric in Italy and in the EU-27 countries we mean a hydroelectric plant with an installed production capacity of up to 10 MW. If, on the other hand, the installed power is less than 3 MW, it is called mini hydroelectric. With much more limited powers and in domestic systems, even if there is no real threshold, we get to talk about micro hydroelectric.
We said Italy and the EU-27 because in the USA, where they are used to larger plants, the power plants of small hydroelectric are those up to 30 MW. But we are talking about Europe, a territory where the small hydroelectric it has an installed capacity of 13,000 MW and can supply electricity to 13 million households.
The small hydroelectric, including mini and micro applications, contributes about 8% to electricity production in the renewable energy mix. An energy contribution with very low greenhouse gas emissions and that does not pollute the water during energy production, which makes it one of the most efficient, reliable and convenient forms of energy production.
Due to its characteristics, the small hydroelectric it can also be used as a compensation for intermittent energy sources, typically solar and wind. However, despite the long list of benefits, this energy source is often overlooked in the agendas of national energy strategies. The obstacles are of an environmental nature, but often linked more to the lack of integration between energy policies and environmental policies than to the impact on the territory.
The industry of small hydroelectric it also has an important economic value in Europe, where there are about 4,200 companies in the sector with 29,000 direct employees. An economically attractive feature of the small hydroelectric is to often constitute an important source of income for the inhabitants of remote areas (for example in the mountains).
As for the development prospects, the small hydroelectric it is considered to have great potential. With the innovations and technological improvements that are thought to be made in the coming years, the production capacity of the new plants small hydroelectric (together with the modernization of old plants) could increase by 50 TWh / year in EU-27 countries.
You may also be interested in: The opportunity of the mini hydroelectric - Mini hydroelectric in agriculture eMini hydroelectric”
Photo source: Kleinwasserkraft Osterreich