How Does a Micro Hydro Generator Work?

We’re all looking for cleaner and cheaper electricity, and micro-hydro is a fantastic option for anyone with water rights on a stream flowing through their property.

They use the clean energy of flowing water moving through a turbine to run a generator that produces electricity. We’ll examine how they do this, how you can calculate your stream’s power potential, and the various components and benefits of these systems. 

Let’s dive in.

What Is Micro Hydro Power? 

Hydropower is renewable energy that uses moving water to generate electricity. Traditional large-scale hydropower plants use dams and channel the river through turbines to generate power on a massive scale.

Micro-hydro power operates on the same principle, just on a smaller micro scale. It can even be built so it doesn’t alter the natural ecology of the stream. It uses naturally flowing streams to create rotational energy, which is converted into electricity you can use to run your home. 

How Do Micro Hydro Generators Work? 

Micro-hydro uses water flowing through a turbine, pump, or waterwheel to generate rotational energy used to rotate a shaft, which spins a generator to produce DC electricity. Some systems have batteries to store the electricity, and most systems also have an inverter to convert the DC into AC electricity used to run most household appliances.

Typically, a micro hydro site should have a minimum output of 300W. The amount of power your site will produce depends on two important factors.

  1. The head is the vertical distance the water drops from a potential intake to the turbine.
  2. The flow is how much water moves through it per unit time.

You can use an altimeter app on your mobile device to determine the head. Then, time how long it takes to fill a five-gallon bucket to determine the flow in gallons per minute (GPM). 

To estimate your site’s potential power output, multiply the head times the flow and divide the result by 10, a standard efficiency factor for micro hydro systems.

Power (W) = (head (ft) X flow (GPM)) / 10

However, which form of renewable energy is best for you will depend on what you have available. While hydro and solar are both popular, micro-hydro only works if you have a creek or river on your property. You may need more power during the dry season if your flow is seasonal. 

However, no matter where you live on Earth, you can use EcoFlow Solar Generators anywhere the sun shines. Solar generators work by converting energy from the sun into electricity. An EcoFlow DELTA Series Solar Generator like the EcoFlow DELTA Pro Ultra is a fantastic way to power 99% of household appliances using clean, renewable energy. 

What Are the Core Components of a Micro Hydro System? 

Water Conveyance

Many micro hydro systems use a conveyance, such as a channel, pipeline, or pressurized pipeline (penstock), to deliver water to the turbine. Some methods use a submersible turbine that goes directly into the stream instead.

Trash Rack, Weir, and Forebay

These prevent debris from entering the pipeline and turbine and damaging them. What you use depends on your particular system. 

Turbine, Pump, or Waterwheel 

Turbines, pumps, and waterwheels all perform the same function: to transform the energy of flowing water into rotational energy. Most modern systems use turbines that are available in various sizes and types to match your power needs, budget, and stream characteristics.


The rotational energy from the turbine rotates a shaft that spins the generator, transforming it into electrical power. Some generators can produce AC electricity that most household appliances use directly, but it depends on the system. 

The generator usually produces DC electricity, which can be stored directly in an optional battery. This is a good option for smaller systems. 


When necessary, an inverter converts DC power into AC, which is used to run most household appliances and tools. 

Load Control and Governors

Hydropower systems use controllers and governors to regulate the turbine speed and manage loads. They monitor power generation and demand and turn resistors on and off to prevent damage to the equipment. Battery-based systems also use a charge controller to prevent overcharging of the batteries.


Wiring is needed to run from the generation facility to your house, shop, farm, or wherever power is needed.

What Are the Benefits of Micro Hydro Systems? 

Even though hydropower is a traditional form of renewable energy, it’s not without its environmental impacts because it requires damming our river systems. Micro hydro is very different. It’s a much smaller-scale form of power generation that doesn’t divert the flow of large volumes of water, so it has less of an environmental impact. 

  • It can be designed so that it does not disrupt the ecology of the stream
  • Water flows through the turbine at the top of the system and returns to the stream unchanged at the bottom
  • It can generate as much as 100 kWh of power, while a large home only needs about 10 kWh 
  • Relatively cheap and easy to install
  • Renewable, sustainable, clean energy that produces no greenhouse gases

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Hydroelectric Generators Generate Electricity?

Hydroelectric generators use flowing water through a turbine, pump, or waterwheel to generate rotational energy. That rotational energy is then used to spin a generator to produce electrical that can be used to run your homes and businesses.

Final Thoughts

We’re all looking for ways to generate cleaner and cheaper electricity to combat climate change and save on our utility bills. Micro-hydro is a good option for those who live next to a stream or river, which they can tap into to generate clean power. A turbine creates rotational energy, which is used to spin a generator, producing electricity to run your home. 

For those of us without access to streams on our property, EcoFlow’s Solar Generators will also generate clean, green, renewable electricity. The best part is these can be used anywhere on the planet as long as the sun is shining. 

EcoFlow is a portable power and renewable energy solutions company. Since its founding in 2017, EcoFlow has provided peace-of-mind power to customers in over 85 markets through its DELTA and RIVER product lines of portable power stations and eco-friendly accessories.


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