Small Hydro Power Development

This note provides basic information with regard to developing a small scale hydro power plant.  A brief outline of the key design issues are presented.  Many developers considering hydro power for the first time can benefit greatly from advice provided by consultants working in the area.  A list of consultants who will be able to guide a developer through the process of building a hydro plant is provided below. 

The critical items associated with the building process for a hydro power plant include the following:

  • Hydro resource (how much power is available, is this commercially viable, what size turbine is appropriate?)
  • Planning permission and environmental impact (contact local council authority for requirements)
  • Power purchase agreement (see below)
  • Permission to connect to the electrical grid (contact ESB Networks)
  • License to generate electricity (contact Commission for Energy Regulation)

Design Guidelines for Small Hydro Projects

The Dept of Communication Energy and Natural Resources and Inland Fisheries Ireland released a report entitled   “Guidelines on the Construction and Operation of Small Scale Hydro Electric Schemes and Fisheries” which can be downloaded as the pdf below.

Guidelines on the Construction & Operation of Small-Scale Hydro-Electric Schemes and Fisheries.pdf (size 441.7 KB)

Existing Hydro Sites

A complete list of connected hydroelectric sites of all scales can be viewed on the EirGrid list of "Other Types of Generators” available at the following site:

A total figure for installed capacity can be viewed on the 'Summary (All Generators)' document on the same web page. At September 2011 the total installed hydro capacity was 237 MW.

The locations of the hydro sites can be viewed on the following Google Map: Map of Grid Connected Hydro Sites in Ireland

Local Authority Studies

A number of local authorities have carried out studies on the potential for hydro in their areas:

Carlow/Kilkenny Local Authority
Limerick/Clare Local Authority

Reference Documents and Further Reading

Service Suppliers and Equipment Manufacturers

List of Hydro Suppliers

This list of service providers is purely for information purposes and provides contact details of those active in the industry. It is not intended in any way to be a list of suppliers or installers approved by or registered for the supply or installation of hydro-electrical services or technology.

Power Purchase Agreement

When designing a hydro plant, the electricity generated may be used directly on site to displace electricity imports to a facility or the electricity may be exported in order to receive a fixed payment from an Electricity Supplier for the output produced from the turbine.  To receive fixed payments, a developer must secure a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) from either a Government source or a private company such as Airtricity or Viridian.  The Department of Communication, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) offers PPAs to buy electricity produced from hydro plants.  These PPAs are considered to be of sufficient value to allow developers to secure up to 70% of the cost of the project from bank loans. 

This Government scheme is referred to as the Renewable Energy Feed In Tariff (REFIT) and offers hydro generators 7.2c per kWh of electricity generated once the necessary planning permissions and grid connection offer have been obtained.  The price is partially indexed linked to inflation and is valid for 15 years. Details of this scheme are available at the DCENR’s website at

  rss icon

Important information regarding cookies and

By using this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with the SEAI Cookie Policy.

For more information on cookies see our cookie policy.