Small Scale Hydro

Here are some good references for planning, designing, and building a micro-hydro system.  Step zero is to carefully determine if you have a hydro resource that is worth developing --  some of the references cover how to do this in detail. 


If you have a reliable stream, a DIY hydro system can be a very cost effective way to generate power.  Since hydro gives 24-7 generation, the energy from even low power hydro generators adds up.



Water pumping is covered under Solar Water Pumping (including Ram Pumps).

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Small Hydro
Microhydro-Electric Systems Simplfied,
Paul Cunningham and Ian Woofenden


If above in unavailable try,
How to get articles from Home Power ...

A good introduction to micro-hydro electricity generation systems.

Covers the basic types of micro-hydro systems and the components that make them up.

A free download from the Home Power site.

Microhydro - Clean Power from Water,
Scott Davis, New Society Publishers

Some extensive excerpts at Google Books: ...



This is a very good, hands on book for designing and building microhydro systems.  176 pages.  Published 2004.

Covers site assessment, pipe design, turbine selection, nozzle design, ...
Easy to follow design procedures.

You can get it from New Society, Amazon, ...

Water Wheel Engineering,
Ron Shannon (Australia)

All the details:


Water Wheel Engineering by Ron Shannon provides the basics on  water wheels and water turbines.

Ron is willing to answer email questions in this area -- you can reach him at:

unistream AT hotkey DOT net DOT au
(replace AT with @ and DOT's with periods)

Intro to Hydro Power

Dan New

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Home Power magazine article, issues 103, 104, and 105

Very good articles on small hydro power. Covers each part of the hydro system in some detail. Sizing information and some installation information. Part 2 covers in detail the process of determining if you have a sufficient hydro resource to be worthwhile-- a good starting place.

Micro Hydro Articles from Home Power

An article on Micro Hydro basics:

Level Description
Beginner "Micro Hydro Power in the 90s" from HP issue 44
Secondary "Energy Systems & Design’s Stream Engine" product test from HP issue 67
Advanced "Kennedy Creek Hydroelectric Systems" from HP issue 20
More "240 VAC Direct-Drive Hydro" from HP issue 65

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Home Power Magazine is providing the articles to the left.

From the same link:
"Small scale hydro (micro-hydro) is the cheapest way to power an RE home. The price per watt-hour is far cheaper than photovoltaics (PV) and even less than wind.

Streams run twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and often 52 weeks per year. The resource is much more site-specific than solar. But if you are lucky enough to have enough head (height between your source and your hydro turbine) and enough flow, then go hydro.

Head and flow are two components in the hydro power formula. A high head system with a very small flow can give the same amount of power as a low head system with a very large flow."


Micro-Hydropower Systems -- A Buyer's Guide,
Natural Resources Canada

Download The Guide (pdf)

A very good guide from Natural Resources Canada on planning, designing, getting approvals, and  installing a micro hydro system.

Very well written with quite a bit of practical design and installation material.  56 pages.


Energy Alternative -- Micro Hydro Calculator


Easy to use micro hydro calculator provides both power output and optimal pipe size for a given vertical drop, flow rate, and pipe run length.

They also offer an class and other micro hydro resources.


Rocky Hydro -- Hydroelectric Calculator

Hydro System Calculator...


Rocky Hydro offers this Excel spreadsheet hydro system calculator that provides power output and quite a bit of system design information.

Lots of other good DIY information on the Rocky Hydro website...

Calculators: Hydroelectric capacity, water turbine and waterwheel design, hydraulic rams sizing...

Borst Engineering and Construction provides a number of calculators that are helpful for small hydro, solar heating, and renewable energy applications.

They are a small engineering consulting and analysis business -- "We are do-it-yourselfers (DIY) at heart and we support like-minded people"

Living off the Grid – A New Era in Home-Owner Hydro

James R. Udall

Finding Mother Earth News articles...


Mother Earth News Article, Issue 143 April/May 1994

Good Mother Earth News article on building small scale hydro systems.  Several examples are discussed.  Not sufficiently detailed to do your design from, but good basic material.

Site Evaluation and Design for Micro Hydro Systems (Large download 11.5 MB pdf)


From Nautilus Water Turbines...

This is a well organized collection of articles and papers on micro hydro applications.  It covers most of what you will need to do to evaluate your site for hydro, select the right kind of generator, and design and install a small hydro system.


Judy of the Woods adds micro-hydro



Water Baby Turbine info...

This is a nice and detailed account from Judy on the design, installation, and optimization of a small water baby hydro generator.
Judy was able to combine the output from several modest size springs and run the combined output 600 ft (100 ft vertical) down the hill to meet her modest power needs. 

Judy has a really interesting website -- Judy of the woods.  While most of us are trying to get our phantom loads down to a hundred watts, Judy lives on this amount of power with no problems.

A Small Creek Provides Plenty of Power for this Off-Grid Home,
Scott Gentleman, Backwoods Home Magazine, November 2007


The full article...

Good article from Backwoods Home Magazine on designing and installing a small hydro system that provides all the needs of this off grid home.

Some good design and construction information.

Homebrew Hydro Electric,
Hydro Electric Experiment with Direct Drive Alternator


This is good series of pictures that show in detail the building of a completely home made small Banki turbine. 
This setup works with very modest flow and head, to produce a small, but useful amount of electricity.
Undershot Water Wheel

Full Construction Details...


This is the paper that was used in designing this water wheel:
"Water Wheel Engineering", Ron Shannon

Update 2/15/07 -- some email questions answered.

This efficient undershot waterwheel looks like its been part of the scenery for a hundred years.
Full details on how it was built.
A small Undershot Water Wheel Project
undershot waterwheel powerA small undershot water wheel project.

Not so sure about the durability of the plywood wheel, but it gives some ideas for construction and and design and an idea what can be done with a small source. 
Aspen Hollow Micro-Hydro System

Aspen Micro Hydro System Description:

Turgo spoons, runners, nozzles,.. for sale...

Quite a bit of detailed information on sizing, designing and building a Turgo wheel micro hydro system, as well as what appear to be reasonably priced  parts to build such a system.
Note the unusual inlet that requires minimal stream disturbance.
The information is kind of spread around, so look around carefully.
ECO Innovation -- Pelton Turbines...


More useful material...

This site sells parts for Pelton turbine installation as well as completed turbines.

Quite a bit of design and installation material is provided -- most applicable to other Pelton wheels.

A Batteryless, Utility Intertie Microhydro System
Kurt Johnson with Paul Hoover

How to get articles from Home Power ...
Home Power Magazine article, issue 80

A very good article on the design and installation of a micro hydro system on a creek. The system is intertied to the utility grid.  Good detail on planning and installation.

Induction Motors for Small-Scale Hydro
Bill Havilland

How to get articles from Home Power ....

Home Power Magazine article, issue 71

Very good article on the pros and cons of using a three phase induction motor forsmall scale hydro installation rather than a DC alternator. Quite a bit of detail on systems using induction motors for generators.

From Water to Wire
Peter Talbot 

 How to get articles from Home Power ...

Home Power Magazine Article, issue 76

Very good hands-on article about building a high head, low flow small hydro system. Lots of design and construction information.  A really challenging installation.

240VAC Direct Drive Hydro

John Hermans

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Home Power Magazine article, issue 65

Description of a 240VAC, low head hydro system in Australia.  Good detail.

4+ KW Synchronous AC Hydro System


This is a detailed description with many pictures of a relatively large micro hydro system using a pelton wheel and brushless synchronous single phase generators.

Initial power output is 4KW with potential for about twice that.

The 10 Kinzel/Kingsley Rules for Surviving Micro Hydroelectric Power (and what the ads and manuals don’t tell you)

Terry Kinzel and Sue Ellen Kingsley

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Home Power Magazine article, issue 47

Very entertaining and helpful article on installing and living with a micro hydro power system.  Ten rules are presented based on the authors experience.  Rule 2 is "Never underestimate the ability of the technical elite to dazzle and befuddle us technological dummies".

Powerful Dreams

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Home Power magazine article, issue 96

Description of 30kw grid intertied hydro installation.

Happy On One Kilowatt

Bill Isely

Mother Earth News

Finding Mother Earth News articles...

Mother Earth News Article, Issue 180

Good article on how one couple built a small hydro system that generates about 24KWH per day – just enough to meet their needs.  Quite a bit of construction information.

Hydro Power Done Dirt Cheap

Stephen M. Gima, Eileen Puttre

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Home Power Magazine article, issue 52

Good article on a very cheap ($328) micro hydro system for a cabin. 

Overshot Water Wheel Design and Construction Manual

Published by VITA

Another Vita manual on waterwheel design:


Very detailed design and construction information on overshoot water wheels.  The published data indicates that these wheels can be quite efficient.
Fitz Water Wheel...

fitz water wheelsFitz has been making overshot water wheels since 1840.

Their website has a lot of information on water wheels including some sizing hints and testing.


Water Wheel Factory...


water wheel factoryThe Water Wheel Factory make a variety of water wheels and will also custom make water wheels to your requirements.

Quite a few pictures of projects, some design information, links, and inexpensive plans for a 10.5 ft waterwheel.



Banki  Water Turbine Design and Construction Manual

Published by VITA



List of VITA plans...


Detailed plans for VITA for the design and construction of a Banki Water Turbine for generating electricity.
Some material is provided on sizing the turbine to the stream, and detailed instructions are provided for the construction of the turbine.  Little is provided on the sizing and gearing for the generator.

Micro Hydro Forums

The OtherPower Hydro Froum...

The Navitron Hydro Forum...

Yahoo Micro Hydropower...


Some online forums that might provide answers to questions on micro hydro.
Flow of River Hydro
Hydro installations that make use only of the stream velocity to generate power.
Flow of river hydro projects:  design information and example projects... undershot waterwheelFlow of river hydro installations use only the flow velocity of the stream to generate power.  That is, these installations do not make use of an elevation drop of the water for power, but only use the velocity of the water flowing down the stream.

I regularly get questions from people who live on a stream or river and would like to make use of it as a power source, but the stream has no useable elevation drop over the property, and a dam to make an elevation drop would not be allowed.  So, I spent a little time compiling a page that provides a way to determine how much power you might have available just from the water velocity, and also lists all of the residential size projects I could find that appear to have a chance of working.
Flow of river hydro projects:  design information and example projects...
A Few Small Hydro Suppliers  -- Listed roughly in order of power output offered.

Grants Pass, Oregon

Pelton wheels mated with your choice of many generators.
Up to 3000 watts.
Generators offering AC or DC output from 12 to 480 volts.
Medium to high head.

Energy Systems and Designs Limited


Small Pelton and stream propeller turbines.
Around 1000 watts.

Medium down to as low as 5 ft.


Rocky Hydro

Rocky Hydro...


Rocky Hydro sells packaged systems as well as turgo wheels, generators, and electrical components needed to make a full system.

They seem very DIY oriented and there is quite a bit of helpful design/build information on the site.

Brownell Micro Hydro...


micro hydro runnerLots of micro hydro gear and some helpful reference material.

In addition there is a blog with a number of useful articles and videos on small hydro projects.



New Zeeland

Pelton wheel turbines.
Up to about 1800 watts.
DC generators, various voltages.
Medium to high head.

Parts for DIY systems.



Powerspout micro hydro turbinePowerSpout sells three models of micro hydro models to accomodate a wide range of available heads.

The website is helpful with calculators, manuals, and pictures of projects.


Water Motors
Water Power in the Andes -- A water MOTOR
Ron Davis

How to get articles from Home Power ...


Home Power Magazine article, issue 71

Very interesting article on design, build and use of Pelton water MOTOR to directly power woodworking tools and other devices in a remote area.