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Published on November 28th, 2015 | by Cynthia Shahan


Small Hydropower Market Analysis

November 28th, 2015 by  

One notable driver of small hydropower is the low generation cost compared to other off-grid renewable technologies. This information comes from a deeper analysis that Transparency Market Research published in a new report titled, Small Hydropower Market, by Installed Capacity – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth Trends, and Forecast, 2015 — 2023.

The report explains that the global small hydropower market installed capacity stood at 110.77 GW in 2014, and that’s expected to reach 146.65 GW by 2023 at a CAGR of 2.85% from 2015 to 2023 (not the growth we’re used to seeing in the wind and solar markets). As well, the high-level analysis furnishes a comprehensive view of the small hydropower business globally. A sample of the report can be viewed here.

Screen Shot 2015-11-26 at 2.45.10 PM (4) (2)


Small hydropower (SHP) provides an emission-free renewable source of electricity, as with solar power and wind energy. SHP can be used off the grid or on the grid. The establishment of small hydro is often built using existing dams. It is sometimes constructed within the flow of the river, known as run of river. Perfect for areas where there is no electric infrastructure, SHP systems consist of transformers, generators, turbines, and reservoirs. No harmful gasses, carbon dioxide, and other pollutants.

press release highlights some of the findings, pointing out that SHP has no international denomination, and so its upper limit varies from country to country. “In Canada it ranges up to 50 MW and in Brazil it ranges up to 30 MW; however, 10 MW total capacity is accepted worldwide. Capacity utilization and plant load factor for small hydropower plants are high when compared to other renewable sources of energy.”

The report breaks the small hydropower market into five regions: North America, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Africa, and South and Central America.

  • Asia Pacific shows as the largest market for small hydropower — 70.3% of the global market in 2014. China (which offers tax credits for SHP) is the forerunner. After China, India and Japan move into the next leadership positions.
  • The second-largest market for SHP in 2014 is Europe, with Italy as the leader there. Italy shows comprehensive policies and substantial funding for market development.
  • North America comes in third. Predictably, the US and Canada are the leading countries in this market.

The research finds significant leaders in the small hydropower market include Voith GmbH, ANDRITZ HYDRO GmbH, Alstom S.A., BC Hydro, and StatKraft AS.

Some related research mentioned in an earlier CleanTechnica post, “Small-Scale Hydroelectric Can Help To Regenerate ‘Deprived’ Rural Areas,” focused more on the economic/job creation benefits of small hydropower. The job creation arrives mostly from “the fact that micro-hydroelectric (another name for small hydro) is an embedded technology relying on local know-how and materials (rather than one relying on large amounts of imported expertise, as with larger projects).”

Enjoy a bit of history of simple water-powered mills in the US and think of constructing one yourself:

Related: Massachusetts Considering Net Metering For Small Hydropower Projects Over 60 kW

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About the Author

is a Mother, an Organic Farmer, Licensed Acupuncturist, Anthropology Studies, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings who have lit the way for me for decades.

  • The author may want to dive a bit deeper into small hydro. The figure above is essentially typical large hydro (dammed river) and the video is a hobbyist thing. However, the hobbyist system is called a “run of the river” hydro. Run of the river basically takes water from a stream at a high elevation, runs it through a pipe and discharges it through a generator at a lower level. The benefit of run of the river is its cheaper and there’s little environmental damage common of reservoirs. Storage could be possible by building a reservoir somewhere in between the high and low points of the system. Then again, big delta elevation streams and rivers and typically ephemeral so there’s capacity issues just like wind and solar.

    Here’s more on run of the river

  • JamesWimberley

    Every little addition to despatchable renewable generation makes a much larger volume of wind or solar power sustainable.

    • Martin

      Other despatchable RE would be geo thermal, tidal, wave.

      • Shane 2

        Wave is despatchable?

        • Tim

          I believe what they mean by despatchable is available all, or almost all, day and can be ramped up quickly and has storage inherent to the system. So I also say, “Wave is despatchable?” and I also say, “Tidal is despatchable?” I imagine you could hook up a pond of salt for a heat reservoir to make geo despatchable.

          And, yes, it’s officially spelled with an “i.”

          • Martin

            Yes as for misspelling, due to lack of computer skills, spellcheck is one thing I do not how to do, plus English is my second language.
            I guess instead of dispatchable, it should have been, base load power, yes hydro is more dispatchable than the others, but with storage, batt etc,they all become aveliable 24/7.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Martin – agian – what browser are you using?

            Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, something else?

          • Martin

            I think it is google chrome.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sounds like your spell checker is not turned on.

            Start a comment and type in some nonsense letters such as “qweowe”.

            If the letters get a red underlining the put your cursor over the ‘word’ and right click. You should get a popup box with the possible correct spelling at the top.

            Make sure “Ask Google for suggestions” is turned on.

            If the letters don’t get a red underlining then your spell checker is likely turned off.

            Position your cursor over a blank space in the comment box and right click. Click on Spell Checker Options.

            Make sure the “Check spelling of text fields” and “Ask Google for suggestions” are turned on.

            Turned on is indicated by a checkmark before the option.

          • Martin

            Thank you Bob. ๐Ÿ™‚

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here’s a handy trick that you might use if you’re not sure you’ve got the correct English word. Select the word and tap the right mouse/trackball button. When the popup appears there will be an option to “Search Google for ‘selected word’.”

            It’s a quick and easy way to check word usage.

            Also, Chrome has started making editing suggestions. If I type “were” when I should use “we’re” Google will often underline the questionable word and with a right click will offer a suggestion.

            It won’t always be correct, but often will be.

          • Tim

            Sorry to point out misspelling. I applaud you for taking part in a discussion on such a high level when it’s not even in your native tongue. But Wimberley’s point was that hydro is natively dispatchable which helps in the deployment of more non-dispatchable RE coming on line like solar.

          • Martin

            Don’t worry, my girlfriend still makes fun of some of my accent when I talk, after speaking English for longer than than German.

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