How to choose a good site location?

A good hydro site is a valuable asset

You could write a book what makes a good hydro site, but in summary choosing a good site location for a hydropower plant requires considering several critical factors, including:


Head refers to the vertical distance between the water source and the turbine. High head sites typically have a steep elevation drop, which creates a higher potential energy that can be converted into electricity. Therefore, selecting a site with a high head is crucial for maximizing power output.


Flow refers to the volume of water that passes through a specific point within a given time. Selecting a site with a high flow rate is essential for generating sufficient energy. Ideally, the site should have a consistent and reliable water supply throughout the year.

Potential locations for implementation of small hydropower in water conveyance system (marked by red circles) Picture source: Adapted from (Loots et al., 2015)


The layout of the site refers to the physical characteristics of the land where the hydropower plant will be located. A suitable layout ensures that the plant can operate efficiently and effectively. The plant should be located in an area where water can easily be captured and channeled towards the turbine. A suitable layout should also minimize environmental impacts and ensure that the plant is accessible for maintenance.


Hydropower plants generate electricity, which must be transmitted to the grid for distribution. Therefore, it is crucial to choose a site location that is close to the grid to minimize transmission losses. The grid should also have the capacity to handle the additional power generated by the plant.


Access refers to the ease of reaching the site location. The site should be accessible to maintenance crews, and there should be a reliable transportation route to transport equipment and materials to the site.

Environmental Impact

Hydropower plants can have significant environmental impacts, such as altering the flow of water and impacting aquatic ecosystems. Therefore, it is essential to select a site location that minimizes environmental impacts. The site should not affect the natural flow of the river or disrupt the migration patterns of aquatic species.

Legal and Social Considerations

Selecting a site location should comply with legal regulations, such as obtaining the necessary permits and licenses. The location should also not be in conflict with the local communities to avoid social opposition and conflicts.

In conclusion, selecting a good site location for a hydropower plant requires considering several factors, including head, flow, layout, grid, access, environmental impact, and legal and social considerations. By taking these factors into account, you can choose a location that ensures reliable power production while minimizing negative impacts on the environment and society.