In Switzerland, the term small-scale hydropower plant refers to facilities that produce a mean mechanical gross capacity of up to 10 MW.
Small-scale hydropower plants have been around for a long time in Switzerland. At the beginning of the twentieth century there were already around 7,000 in operation. But with the advent of low-cost electricity from large-scale power plants, many of these ceased production.
Today there are more than 1,000 small-scale hydropower plants in operation, with an installed capacity of approximately 760 MW and an output of 3,400 GWh per annum.
Electricity production in small-scale hydropower plants is attractive from both an economical and an ecological point of view, and an expansion of output is perfectly feasible, as long as ecological aspects are duly taken into account. The potential is estimated at around 2,200 GWh per annum. Technological innovations and measures to lessen environmental impacts make small-scale hydropower plants inexpensive energy sources that provide renewable energy on an independent basis and help protect the environment.
In addition to small-scale hydropower plants in rivers and streams, it is now possible to utilise other sources, e.g. excess pressure in drinking water systems.