The Pros And Cons Of Small-Scale Hydroelectric Power Plants

Small-scale hydroelectric power plants are becoming increasingly popular around the world. These plants generate electricity by harnessing the energy of flowing water in rivers, streams, and even man-made channels. They can provide a source of renewable energy that is less damaging to the environment than fossil fuels, but there are also some drawbacks to consider. In this article, we will take a closer look at the pros and cons of small-scale hydroelectric power plants.


Renewable Energy

One of the main advantages of small-scale hydroelectric power plants is that they use renewable energy. Water is a naturally occurring resource that is replenished by rain and snow, making it an excellent source of sustainable energy. Unlike fossil fuels, which are finite and will eventually run out, the power provided by a small-scale hydroelectric plant will continue as long as water keeps flowing.

Low Operation Costs

Small-scale hydropower plants require relatively low operation costs. Most of the expenses associated with hydropower come from the initial installation and maintenance of the equipment. Once the equipment is in place, the operating costs are relatively low. Although, the maintenance requirements will heavily depend on the complexity and size of the plant.

No Greenhouse Emissions

Small-scale hydroelectric power plants do not produce greenhouse gas emissions as fuel-powered plants do. The electricity generated from hydropower is clean and does not contribute to air pollution. This makes the use of hydropower an eco-friendly option especially in areas where environmental preservation is deemed necessary.


Small-scale hydroelectric plants are very reliable. They are designed to run continuously, as long as there is a consistent supply of water. Moreover, these plants have long lifespans with low risks of corrosion and structural damage.


Small-scale hydropower plants are flexible in terms of size and capacity. Saving the land and water in mind, small hydropower plants can generate electricity for a community or a small business, whereas, larger scale plants can provide enough electricity to power whole cities or regions.


High Initial Investment

The primary drawback of small-scale hydroelectric power plants is the high initial cost of installation. The electricity they generate is significantly cheaper than power generated from fossil fuels over time, but the cost of the equipment installation is often prohibitively expensive, leading to a longer return on investment period.

Dependence on Water Levels

The availability of water is critical for the operation of hydroelectric plants. If the water supply diminishes, it may lead to reduced electrical output or even complete outage. A lot of planning and consideration needs to be taken regarding the annual water supply which can differ from region to region.

Environmental Impact

Small hydropower plants have little impact on the environment compared to large and complex hydroelectric power plants. However, the construction of dams and channels may have an effect on water availability, and fish migration patterns may also be disrupted. Even if there is a minimal impact, the environmental effect and labour involved in constructing these plants into the landscape need carefully considered.

Limited Location Availability

Not every region is suitable for hydropower production. A water source is required for hydroelectric power production, which makes some areas with low water levels impractical for a small-scale hydroelectric power plant.

Time Consuming Process of Permitting

Due to the environmental, social, and economic impact of hydropower plants, government permits and permission are needed for the construction of small-scale hydroelectric power plants. The process of obtaining permits is lengthy and may be an obstacle to the successful project implementation.


Small-scale hydroelectric power plants can be an excellent source of sustainable, renewable energy for small and large communities alike. With low maintenance requirements, flexible sizing, and zero carbon emissions, they offer a wealth of advantages. However, the high cost of installation, dependence on water levels, and environmental impact are significant drawbacks to consider. Whilst small and minimal impact plants are preferred, there are many logistics and geographic factors that must be taken into consideration before implementation. As with all renewable energy options, the pros and cons should be carefully weighed, and the decision should be made based on the unique needs and considerations of the community in question.

Scroll to Top