The surprising energy of small hydro

Published on Friday, 18 April 2014

Hydroelectric energy has well known benefits, not only because it's a renewable source that is theoretically inexhaustible. It  has no emissions of any kind, it increases energy security and reduces the domestic bill, because it diversifies technologies and decreases the amount of imported raw materials. Also, more than other energy sources, it allows to adequately manage the electricity grid. And finally, well-designed hydropower plants are environmentally friendly, especially for watercourses that are fast-flowing and those located in mountainous areas, where they effectively help to safeguard the environment and allow a diversified and more efficient use of water.

In the field of hydropower, Enel's experience is among the greatest in the world,  with a large number of plants of all types and sizes that operate in Europe, North America and Latin America.

But the Group is constantly committed to further development in this field and to innovation aimed at enhancing the efficiency and environmental sustainability of each one of its facilities.


To this end, a very interesting activity regards small plants, which due to their extremely reduced environmental impact are the most suitable for Europe (where it would be difficult to build facilities with large water-collection reservoirs) and which, also in developing nations, have the advantage of requiring a low initial investment and of having a great number of available sites.


In this field, Enel's innovations are acknowledged and have recently accelerated strongly. As shown, for example, in Italy by the Trezzo d'Adda and Borgo Mozzano units, designed to enhance the "minimum vital flow", and that of Campiglio, based on the VLH (Very Low Head) technology, which can exploit water levels that differ by very few metres.

To be noted the great number of new achievements, including the unit of Dobšiná III in Slovakia, the various plants under construction in Brazil where – due to the characteristics of local hydropower, even plants with dozens of megawatts are considered “small” – and the refurbishment of several old facilities in Italy, such as Bardonecchia that was built in 1921 and Sparonne, in 1923.