A hydro-electric power plant turns potential energy from a head of water into mechanical energy with a turbine and then into electrical energy with a generator. The plant's installed capacity depends on the turbine flow rate and the operating head.
A small hydropower facility generates electricity that can be used to supply power to isolated sites (residential properties, for example) or that can be sold to the distribution network. Small hydropower facilities can be categorised in accordance with their installed capacity.
The following terminology is used :
Small-scale hydropower does not generate any greenhouse gas. As there is no combustion, hydropower does not release any oxides and does not produce any carbon dioxide, in particular. It can be considered to be a sustainable source of energy.
Generation techniques, regulations and the willingness of the operators concerned help to manage the impact of hydropower on water quality, river life, noise levels and the landscape, among other things.
Hydropower creates a range of very different occupations as it requires the services of civil engineering firms, turbine manufacturers, electrical engineers, generator suppliers, screen rake operators, etc. and also produces local security and maintenance jobs.
The payment of service charges and taxes by these companies helps to balance the budget of small towns that are sometimes bereft of any industry; hydropower also represents a guaranteed and long-term resource (30 to 40 years) for these towns.
Hydropower is based on a network of different facilities :