Small Hydropower

Small hydropower system construction

Small hydropower is a clean, renewable, and predictable energy source. Small hydropower generation systems produce electricity by converting the mechanical energy in the running water into electric energy in a way similar to larger traditional hydroelectric systems. In Canada, small hydro generally refers to hydroelectric projects with between 1 and 50 megawatts (MW) in installed capacity. Small hydro systems can either be connected to the grid and provide power to the grid or they can be used for independent and stand-alone applications in isolated remote areas.

Small hydro is one of the best alternatives to the highly polluting and very costly diesel generation that currently provides electric energy in most remote communities across Canada. The potential energy that could be produced by small hydropower technologies is estimated to be 15,000 MW, and the current installed small hydro capacity is approximately 3,400 MW. By using both the existing state-of-the-art and the emerging technologies, the vast small hydro potential could be developed to help Canada meet its future energy needs and bring about more environmental and socio-economical benefits.

CanmetENERGY also helps build strong links between utilities, academic institutions, and other relevant government programs. We are the only government research and development (R&D) entity in Canada that has a team dedicated specifically to the needs of small-scale conventional and emerging hydropower technologies. Our mandate in hydraulic energy is to support the research efforts of the Canadian small hydro industry in the development and commercialization of advanced small hydro technologies. We carry out and support R&D on existing and emerging power generation systems to increase energy efficiency, improve cost-effectiveness, and advance ecological and environmental benefits. These R&D activities include:

  • technology demonstrations and deployment
  • development of modeling software and resource assessment data
  • development of codes and standards, providing support for federal energy policy
  • dissemination of small hydropower knowledge

CanmetENERGY's work on hydraulic energy will lead to advanced technologies that develop the vast small hydro potential in Canada (especially low head hydro) in an energy efficient and environmentally friendly manner. Small hydro energy is clean energy and very flexible in terms of meeting peak load demands while providing energy security. As the Government of Canada’s leading research centre for hydraulic energy, we play an important role in meeting Natural Resources Canada’s objectives of sustainable development and responsible use of Canada’s energy resources. Furthermore, our R&D support is essential for Canadian manufacturers of small-scale emerging hydropower technologies because they have limited capital to develop a broader range of products and make them more competitive internationally.

Major achievements by CanmetENERGY in the area of hydraulic energy include: supporting a university laboratory in becoming the only independent hydraulic turbine testing laboratory in North America; the development of resource assessment tools; and the involvement in international R&D. Typical emerging small hydro technologies include: low head and very low head power generation technology, water current turbines technology and fish-friendly turbine technology.

For more information about CanmetENERGY's work in small hydropower technologies, please contact us.