Small & Micro Hydro Energy

Small and micro hydroelectric developments have significant potential for contributing to B.C.'s energy mix. For example, BC Hydro has signed electricity purchase agreements for 19 green small hydro projects to be owned, built and operated by independent power producers.

In addition to these new projects, a number of small hydroelectric generators have been supplying power to the BC Hydro grid for many years. These existing facilities operate with small dams or diversion structures to divert water from smaller rivers and streams through pipes to the generating station. There are also a number of micro hydro plants in areas where there is no access to the electric power grid. While these existing projects may be green, it's important to note that BC Hydro has not assessed them against green criteria.       

Micro and small hydro developments are similar in terms of impacts and operation – the main difference is size. While definitions of the terms "micro" and "small hydro" vary significantly, Hydro considers micro hydro developments as ones with an installed capacity of less than 2 MW (2,000 kW). We apply the term small hydro to developments with installed capacities between 2 and 50 MW. By comparison, BC Hydro's largest facility, the G.M. Shrum Generating Station at the W.A.C. Bennett Dam has a capacity of 2,730 MW.

For small and micro hydro developments, 1 MW of installed capacity will supply enough power for about 550 homes. This assumes that the facility is able to generate, on average, about 65% of its full capacity. Generation is limited during periods of low streamflow, caused, for example, by low precipitation or temperatures low enough to freeze the stream.