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Advantages of mini hydroelectric plants

Large-scale hydroelectric power has limited residual potential nowadays, so talk of new projects means referring especially to mini-hydro technology, an area which sees Italy hold a substantial lead in terms of technological innovation, the ability to build facilities and provide solutions with ample opportunities for investment in the energy sector.

From an operational point of view, one of the advantages of mini hydroelectric plants is the ease of operation resulting from the introduction of remote monitoring and control, with the scope of reducing the personnel involved in operational activities that are limited to ordinary and extraordinary maintenance.

It is sometimes convenient to build pico-facilities, to provide energy for shelters or isolated dwellings, for example. Small watercourses, creeks and streams are exploited with minimally invasive applications that become part of the natural environment with small civil and/or control works that manage to contribute a few kW, which is often enough to power a refrigerator, a radio or the lighting in a shelter or cabin.

Another field of application under increasing development is energy recovery. Wherever there are dissipative systems, such as control points and flow regulation (disconnection tanks, spillways, sleepers, dividers, gates) with water drops, a turbine for the recovery of current energy can be installed.

The advantages of mini hydroelectric plants include:

  • Minimal environmental impact: zero emissions of CO2;
  • High energy efficiency (about 80-85%);
  • Continuous source of energy that allows the reduction of supply from sources subject to significant fluctuations in price, such as fuels;
  • Reliable, mature technology and competitive costs;
  • Approval and licensing processes that are generally simpler than those for large-scale facilities;

Relatively short construction times.