|Abstract or Summary
- Microscale hydropower, facilities that produce between 1 kW and 1 MW of power,
has the potential to revolutionize modern power production. Unlike conventional large scale
operations, these water supplies can be utilized with little impact on the environment.
Hydropower per unit production can be very affordable compared to other renewable
resources, but is limited by regulatory constraints and initial capital investments. At present,
multiple states allow water rights to be amended to include microscale power production.
These changes are relatively recent, with many unresolved legal and policy issues.
Additionally, barriers exist for small producers when trying to connect to the grid. Microscale
hydropower technology is available and robust, but the initial expense can be a significant
obstacle to entry in the sector. These limitations can lead to projects that are not financially
feasible. Additionally small water resources tend to be ungauged; understanding power
production feasibility requires straightforward ways to estimate flow. These water resources
are typically very intermittent. Consequently technology and infrastructure must be designed
to optimize year round power production. This paper examines the legal, policy, science and
engineering questions that need to be considered in the development of a microscale
hydropower facility. A case study is presented, using a regionalized water balance, ¹⁸O
isotopic analysis, temperature analysis, the "5 gallon bucket" gauging method, ArcGIS
applications and a policy/legal/technology review to determine power production feasibility.
This case study reveals that small water resources can be developed as viable and
economically feasible sources for residential use. For these resources to contribute clean and
green power to the grid, the great potential of microscale hydropower must be recognized.
Legal and policy reforms along with new technologic innovations can address these
limitations and support wide scale application.