In contrast to reservoir hydropower, streaming hydroelectric projects – usually called “run of the river” – can often cast a very small ecological footprint.
Streaming hydropower projects don’t use a large dam. And many have de minimus impacts on fish. Instead, a small diversion channels some of the water away from the streambed into a pipeline, where it travels downhill before passing through the turbine and back into its original streambed. Instead of creating head differential using dams, you take advantage of natural drops. The rest of the water continues to travel as it always has, providing the same fish migration path they’ve always used.
Because streaming hydro systems are smaller, they produce less electricity per site. And, of course, they can and do go dry during dry periods. But because they can create usable power from much smaller streams, there are many more opportunities to use them. Streaming hydro sites also tend to be located closer to the point of electricity usage, substantially reducing the line losses inherent to large power plant designs.
Our approach to run-of-the river hydro is congruent with our approach to all renewable energy harvesting: use a modular kit of parts – recycled whenever possible -- and be cost-disruptive energy production-wise.
Stay tuned for further developments as we move toward deploying some pilot installs.