A run-of-river hydroelectric plant is a system that captures the energy from flowing water to produce electricity. This process does not require a large dam or reservoir and this is how these plants differ from conventional impoundment hydroelectric facilities. It utilizes a small dam to guarantee a sufficient flow of water into the penstock, allowing for potential storage for same-day use.

Run-of-the-river hydroelectric generation uses the natural flow rate of water to generate power, rather than relying on the force of water falling from a large distance. In this system, it’s possible for water to undergo a vertical descent due to the natural topography or the presence of a small dam. In contrast to traditional hydropower, run-of-the-river hydro is specifically used in regions with limited or no water storage, like rivers.

There must be two specific geographical features for a run-of-the-river system to be established in a certain location.

  • Firstly, it is crucial to have a significant flow rate, whether it is from precipitation or the melting of a snowpack.
  • Moreover, a substantial slope of the river is necessary to considerably accelerate the water flow.

There are various categorizations of run-of-the-river systems, primarily determined by their capacity. Types are listed in the table below.

  • Micro < 100 kW
  • Mini 100 kW – 1 MW
  • Small 1 – 50 MW

What is the Working of Run-Of-River Hydroelectric Plant?

The flow of a river is directed through a channel or penstock. At this point, the altitude can change due to a small dam or the natural landscape. This means that there may still be some contribution from the “falling water.” The diverted water is directed towards a hydroelectric power station to generate electricity. Running water powers a turbine which, in turn, operates a generator to produce electricity. The water is released downstream into the river after use.

Also See: 5 Major Advantages and Disadvantages of Hydroelectric Energy


Elliot is a passionate environmentalist and blogger who has dedicated his life to spreading awareness about conservation, green energy, and renewable energy. With a background in environmental science, he has a deep understanding of the issues facing our planet and is committed to educating others on how they can make a difference.

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