As their name implies, micro-hydroelectric plants are the smallest type of hydroelectric energy systems. They generate between one kilowatt and one megawatt of power. The main application for these hydro systems is in small, isolated villages in developing countries. They are ideal for powering smaller services such as the operation of processing machines.
Small hydropower systems can supply up to 20 megawatts of energy. These systems are relatively inexpensive and reliable. They have the potential to provide electricity to rural areas in developing countries throughout the world. Small systems are especially important to countries that may not be able to afford the costs of importing fossil fuels such as petroleum from other countries.
In some areas of the world, the flow rate and elevation drops of the water are consistent enough that hydroelectric plants can be built directly in the river. The water passes through the plant without greatly changing the flow rate of the river. In many instances a dam is not required, and therefore the hydroelectric plant causes minimal environmental impact on its surroundings. However, one problem with run-of-the-river plants is the obstruction of fish and other aquatic animals. This and other problems are discussed in the next page.
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