Proceedings of ICEE 2009 3rd International Conference on Energy and Environment,
7-8 December 2009, Malacca, Malaysia
Micro Hydro Potential in West Malaysia
978-1-4244-5145-6/09/$26.00 ©2009 IEEE 348
Nathan Raman, Ibrahim Hussein, and
Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN),
Km.7 Jalan Kajang-Puchong, 43009 Kajang, Selangor, Malaysia.
Abstract— Combination of highland areas with huge river
networks promise Malaysia with a lot of hydro power potential.
To date Malaysia had utilized this potential in the range of large
and mini hydropower but not in the micro hydro range. Micro
hydro refers to power generation in the range of 5kW to 100kW.
Micro hydro can provide alternative renewable energy sources
especially in areas with small rivers or streams flowing. In
identifying the micro hydro potential sites, reconnaissance studies
is normally conducted. It is a preliminary study to identify micro
hydropower potential. This paper presents the results of
reconnaissance studies carried out to identify the micro hydro
potential in West Malaysia. The reconnaissance studies were
conducted with data from the Department of Survey and
Mapping Malaysia, (JUPEM) and Metrological Department
Malaysia. All the identified streams are located in areas which
are accessible and/or showed evidence of settlements. Only
streams with high head i.e. above 50m were considered in this
study. From the reconnaissance studies, a total of 109 sites having
micro hydro potential of about 20.4MW were identified.
However, the energy demand for micro hydro was found not
significant in West Malaysia as most areas are electrified. Still,
micro hydro generation may serve as alternative renewable
energy source in future amid rising electricity cost.
Keywords - Renewable energy, micro hydro, reconnaissance
Hydropower is the most widely used renewable energy
source worldwide as it contributes 19% of the world’s
electricity power from both large and small power plants [1,2].
In Malaysia, hydropower utilization for electricity generation
started in July 1900 when a small hydroelectric plant was
constructed on the bank of Sempam River near Raub, Pahang
by the Raub-Australian gold mining company [3,4]. The
utilization of hydropower in Malaysia to supply electricity for
domestic use however, was only commercially available
around the 1970s . To date, there are twelve large-scale
hydropower stations and fifty mini scale hydropower stations
in Malaysia with Bakun project is another large scale
hydropower plant in progress with a total generating capacity
of 2400 MW. In total, Malaysia has hydropower electricity
generating capacity of about 18,500 MW and this represents
about 20% of Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), the largest
power utility company in Malaysia, total generation capacity
[5,6]. Although Malaysia had successfully benefited from large
and mini scale hydropower for electricity generation but no
effort had be made to utilize hydropower in the micro hydro
range. The potential of micro hydropower in Malaysia have yet
to be identified. With hilly topography almost from South to
North and abundant number of streams flowing to foothills,
Malaysia has a lot of micro hydro potential.
Micro hydro generation capacity is in the range of 5kW to
100kW . If this potential is fully utilized, it will help in
generating power from environmentally friendly run-of–river
type of hydropower system. It provides a good solution for
energy problems in remote and hilly areas where the extension
of grid system is comparatively uneconomical. Micro
hydropower had already proven to be a practical and potential
low-cost option for generating electricity at remote sites,
particularly for small villages in hilly areas such as India,
China, and Kenya . Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and other
Asian and African countries have micro hydro projects
implemented which in most cases implements standardized
technologies for off grid decentralized village hydro schemes.
In some cases the micro hydro systems replace the diesel
generators and are used as hybrid systems with solar powers
[8,9,10,11]. These systems also had been used for direct
mechanical energy for small industries and agriculture such as
battery charging, welding workshop, crop processing, and grain
milling in developing countries . Since the micro hydro
system can be used as direct mechanical drive scheme or
electricity generation scheme, the installation of these systems
in the remote villages especially the mountainous one had
bring huge social-economic development in the villages .
There is also a possibility for off-grid connection serve as
decentralized generation from micro hydropower to the
surrounding areas if proven economical. Micro hydropower
projects are generally considered to be more environmentally
favorable than both large hydro and fossil fuel powered plants.
With all these advantages, micro hydropower can be said as
principle renewable sources for sustainable development
especially in developing countries.
This paper presents the results of reconnaissance studies
carried out to identify the micro hydro potential in West
Malaysia. In this study, the topography maps and hydrology
data were used to identify the heads and the mean annual flow
rate of the sites. Using the heads and flow rates, the available
hydraulic power of the micro hydro sites were estimated. With
the amount of available hydraulic power, the micro hydro
potential of the sites were identified.
OVERVIEW OF MICRO HYDROPOWER
POTENTIALS IN MALAYSIA
Malaysia comprises of two distinct regions which are West
Malaysia covering Peninsula Malaysia and East Malaysia
covering North Borneo. In total, both regions cover land area
of 330 000 sq. km in which 58% is lowland areas and 42% is
highland areas . The highland areas in Malaysia are
created by numbers of well known ranges. In Peninsula
Malaysia, the highland areas are created by ranges such as
Titiwangsa, Tahan, Bintang, Kledang, and Pantai Timur.
Barisan Titiwangsa range is the main range which is
considered as the backbone of Peninsula. In Sarawak, the
highland areas were created mainly by Tama Abu, Iran and
Kapuas Hulu ranges. In Sabah the highland areas were created
by Crocker, Maitland and Brassey. With average rainfall of
2540 mm in Peninsula, 2630 mm in Sabah and 3850 mm in
Sarawak, Malaysia is bless with abundant streams and rivers
flowing from the highland areas created by these ranges .
Combinations of highland areas with huge river networks
promise Malaysia with a lot of micro hydropower potential.
Figure 1 shows the map of Peninsular Malaysia.
Figure 1: Map of Peninsular Malaysia 
In identifying the micro hydro potential sites in Malaysia,
reconnaissance studies were carried out. A reconnaissance
study is an initial stage or preliminary study to identify
hydropower potential sites . Reconnaissance studies are
divided into two main parts which are map studies and
hydrology studies. For both part of the studies, topographic
maps and meteorology data were used to estimate the head
and flow rate of the identified micro hydro potential sites.
A. Map Studies
Map studies were done by using topographic maps
obtained from department of Survey and Mapping Malaysia
(JUPEM). Below are the details of the topographic maps used.
Map name: Peninsula Malaysia topography map
Scale: 1:50 000
Contour: Contour Vertical interval 20 meters
From the topography map studies, the detail information
of the sites was recorded. Listed below are the information
gathered during the studies.
Name of catchment areas and streams
Latitudinal extent and longitudinal extent
Highest and lowest elevation
The site terrain and river profile description
Possible intake, diversion to fore bay and
Available head and catchment area estimation
All the details showed the physiographic characteristics of
the sites. From the physiographic characteristics, the sites
having micro hydro potential were predicted.
From the details above, the suitable catchment areas
which may have micro hydro potential were identified by
considering three main factors which are the energy demand,
accessibility and river profile. The terrains of the catchment
areas were carefully studied to find the suitable elevation for
stream diversion and head. The river profile refers to the
river’s gradient and its tributaries. This helps to determine the
streams water resources and flow availability. Overall, from
the map studies, the suitable streams, heads, catchment areas,
and waterway routes were identified for micro hydro
generation . The catchment areas were used for hydrology
studies. The available head is estimated by determining the
difference in elevation between the possible intake and tailrace
of the site.
B. Hydrology Studies
Since most potential micro hydropower sites are
ungauged, i.e. no measurement of streams flow rate, the
stream flow available for micro hydro generation was
predicted by estimating the mean annual flow, Qm. The
catchment water balance methodology was used to estimate
Qm . Qm was determined using equation.
Qm = (AARD x Area) / 31536 (1)
= Mean annual flow in m3/s
AARD = Annual Catchment runoff depth
Area = Catchment area in km2
The long term average annual catchment runoff depth (AARD)
is given by equation (2)
AARD = SAAR – AE (2)
AARD = Average annual catchment runoff, mm
SAAR = Standard average annual rainfall, mm
AE = Actual Evaporation, mm
Actual evaporation is estimated from potential evaporation
using a scaling factor r, where r increases with SAAR and
hence increasing water availability. The actual evaporation is
estimated using equation (3):
AE = r x PE (3)
This relationship between r and SAAR is given by:
r = 0.00061 x SAAR + 0.475 for SAAR < 850mm
r = 1.0 for SAAR ≥ 850mm
For catchments with annual average rainfall in excess of
850mm/year, it is assumed that actual evaporation equals to
potential evaporation. SAAR and potential evaporation are
estimated from the rainfall and daily potential evaporation (PE)
data. The annual rainfall and daily evaporation data used were
from period of 1997 to 2007 and were obtained from
Malaysian meteorological department . For the daily
evaporation data, the annual evaporation data for each year was
calculated first from period of 1998 to 2007. Then, the average
annual evaporation and average annual rainfall for the 10 years
were calculated and used for hydrology studies. Both annual
rainfall and daily evaporation data used were taken from
nearest meteorology station. Table 1 shows the annual rainfall
data used for the hydrology studies in West Malaysia.
The estimated Qm values gave an indication whether the
flow at the identified site is adequate for micro hydropower
generation or not. Even though the approach used to estimate
the mean annual flow may not be precise, the values obtained
are reliable enough to estimate the total available hydraulic
energy on the specified sites .
C. Estimation of Available Energy
The estimated heads and flow rates from the map studies
and hydrology studies at identified micro hydro sites were
used to estimate the total available power of the sites .
Efficiency factor of 0.6 was selected to estimate the realistic
available power from the sites . The equation used is as
shown in equation (4).
P=0.6 x Q x g x H (4)
P = Energy change per second in kW
Q = Volume per second of water fall down in (m3/s)
g = Acceleration due to gravity
H = Available head in m
D. Site Explorations
A series of stream explorations were also conducted to
verify the results of the reconnaissance studies. From the
explorations, the streams identified for micro hydro generation
were searched and the real conditions of the streams and its
surrounding were studied carefully. A few sites were selected
for site explorations. Generally from the explorations, all the
streams identified for micro hydro generation were found to
have enough flow for micro hydro electricity generation. The
site stream explorations were carried out in Johor, N.
Sembilan and Pahang.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The results obtained from the reconnaissance studies in
West Malaysia are discussed according to regions i.e.
Southern Region, Central Region and Northern Region. Table
2 shows the summary of the micro hydro potential sites for the
whole of West Malaysia.
A. Southern Region
From the reconnaissance studies carried out, 12 micro
hydro potential sites were identified in Johor, 17 sites
identified in N. Sembilan and none in Malacca. The identified
sites for Johor and N. Sembilan are shown in Table 3 and
Table 4 respectively. From the map studies, it was found that
there are no much hilly regions except for the Tahan range and
two isolated mountains which are the Mount Pulai and Mount
Ledang in Johor. In these hilly regions, 12 sites have been
identified to have micro hydro potential and 6 identified sites
in Bekok, along the Tahan range. These sites were selected as
there are orang asli settlements with good road accessibility. 5
sites in Tangkak and Jementah are located at the foothill of
Mount Ledang. Orang asli is the indigenous people of
Malaysia and most of them live in or near the jungles.
Another site in Pekan Nenas is located at the foothill of Mount
Pulai. The sites located in these two mountains were selected
because they have good road accessibility with high heads.
Overall, Johor has an estimated micro hydro generation
potential of 1687.9kW. Since most of the places in Johor are
electrified, the identified micro hydro potential sites are
suitable for off grid generation only.
In Negeri Sembilan, the hilly regions were found to be
located in the middle part of the state i.e. in Kuala Klawang,
Jelebu, K. Pilah, Seri Meranti, and Rembau. The hilly regions
are created by the Titiwangsa range. From these hilly regions,
17 sites were identified to have micro hydro potential. All the
sites are located very near to villages located at the foothills of
Titiwangsa range. The sites were selected because of good
accessibility with high heads. Most of the places in N.
Sembilan have electricity except for Northern N. Sembilan in
the Kenaboi region, Jelebu. Other 15 sites around Seri
Meranti, K. Pilah, Rembau and K.Klawang are suitable for
off-grid generation. Overall, N. Sembilan has an estimated of
847.8 kW micro hydro generation potential.
In Malacca, there is no site identified because there is no
hilly region and potential stream for micro hydro generation.
The only hilly region is in south Melaka where Mount Ledang
is located. Since the streams from this mountain are used for
water supply in Melaka, it is not advisable to choose the
streams for micro hydro generation.
From a series of sites stream explorations conducted in
Johor and N.Sembilan, the energy demand from micro hydro
generation was found not significant in the Southern region.
This is because almost all the places are electrified. Even all
the orang asli settlements in the Southern region have
electricity supply except for Kg. London in Kenaboi region,
Jelebu. All these places are accessible by road. For examples,
in Bekok, orang asli settlements such as Kg. Sri Tembayan,
Kg. Kudong, Kg. Tamok and Kg. Ulu Selai have good road
accessibility because these areas are the main route to the
south gateway to Taman Negara Endau Rompin. In N.
Sembilan, the orang asli villages have good road accessibility
because of the rubber plantation activities. Still, micro hydro
generation may serve best as alternative energy sources in the
future especially for agricultural and plantation sector amid
rising cost of electricity. This was realized during the site
stream explorations, where most of the agricultural areas and
plantations such as oil palm and rubber plantations were
located at the foothill of the hilly regions and most of the
identified streams for micro hydro generations were flowing
through these sites. Micro hydro generation can also be
additional energy sources supporting the current on-grid
electricity supply to the orang asli villages in Bekok and
Jelebu as this helps to reduce the transmission losses. Micro
hydro generation is also suitable to be integrated with water
supply system. The upper streams may be utilized for
electricity generation and then later diverted for water supply.
Such scheme was identified in Chembong sites where Sg.
Batu Hampar will be used for water supply. The construction
work for the water supply at the stream is in progress and will
be completed in 2009. This stream was identified as one of the
potential streams for micro hydro generation in N. Sembilan.
Details on the site exploration in the Kenaboi Region, N.
Sembilan are described in the paper by Nathan et.al. .
B. Central Region
In the central region, 2 micro hydro potential sites were
identified in Selangor and 26 sites identified in Pahang.
From the map studies, the hilly region in Selangor was
found only along the west side of Titiwangsa range covering
Gombak, Ulu Langat, and Ampang. Since most of these places
are well developed including the orang asli settlements near
Ulu Langat and Gombak, it was found that there is no
significant need for micro hydro generation. However, 2 sites
are suitable for alternative off grid connections supply. The
sites were Gabai waterfall in Ulu Langat and Taman Rimba
Templer in Gombak. These places are famous tourist
attraction and the basic facilities were supported with
electricity supplied by TNB. Since both sites have good terrain
characteristics, micro hydro scheme of high heads with very
low flow are possible to be developed here for electricity
generation. There will be no environmental effect on the
waterfall as micro hydro if installed, will be of high head
scheme, thus only small portion of the waterfall water will be
diverted for power generation. The tourist can still enjoy the
greenery and waterfall and utilize the eco-friendly power
generation. The tourism department of Malaysia may have
good opportunity to utilize this freely available green energy
and save electricity cost in the long run. The identified sites in
Selangor are shown in Table 5.
In Pahang, 13 sites identified were along the East of
Titiwangsa range covering Bentong, Kuala Lipis, and
Cameron Highland. 2 sites were identified suitable for micro
hydro generation along Tahan range covering 2 sites in
Temerloh and 1 site at the tip of East Coast range covering
Kuantan. There were also 8 sites identified in Tioman Island.
Table 6 shows the identified sites in Pahang.
Along the hilly region of east Titiwangsa range of Pahang,
9 sites were identified suitable for off grid generation and 4
sites as alternative off grid connections. From the
reconnaissance studies, 5 sites were identified in Kuala Lipis
and 4 sites in Cameron Highland. These sites were near the
orang asli settlements which were far inside the jungle and
only accessible by helicopter or jungle trekking. Data provided
by Department of Orang Asli Affairs of Malaysia (JHEOA),
shows that the areas occupied by the orang asli and some of
the nearby villages do not have proper electricity supply.
With availability of high heads and streams flowing all year
round near the villages, micro hydro generation could be their
best option for off grid electric generation in a sustainable
As for alternative off grid generation, 3 sites were
identified in Bentong and 1 site in Cameron Highland. From
the reconnaissance studies done, these sites have easy access
and may have electricity supply. During site exploration in
Bentong, 3 sites were found to have electricity supply from
TNB. Since the terrain characteristics of these areas were
found to have high heads with good all year round flowing
streams, micro hydro generation as alternative off grid
connections are feasible here.
The 2 sites identified in Temerloh may be suitable for
electricity supply to orang asli village of Kg. Mentuh and the
elephant training centre of Kuala Gandah. From the map study
conducted on Kg. Damak and Kg. Penderas, these 2 sites were
located far inside the jungle but still with motor-able track
accessibility. With this accessibility, the sites may have grid
connected electricity supply, but still micro hydro generation
may serve as an alternative off-grid generation in the future.
Both sites were chosen due to high heads supported by all year
round flowing streams of Sg. Galung and Sg. Rangit.
In Tioman Island, there were 8 sites identified to provide
off grid generation to the villages. Currently, the island is
supported by diesel generators which are rather expensive and
practicing unsafe diesel delivery method. There is a mini
hydro power plant of Sg. Mentawak but was not in operation
due to technical problem . This stream is also suitable for
micro hydro generation. The existing plant may need to be re-
sized for micro hydro generation which will greatly reduce the
installation cost. All the sites were feasible for micro hydro
generation because the island have good terrain characteristics
with Mount Kajang and Seperuk and plenty of streams
flowing all round year through these hilly places.
At the tip of east coast range, 1 site was identified near the
famous waterfall of Jerangkang. The waterfall has very high
head and small amount of the rivers flow, capable of providing
micro hydro generation for alternative off grid generation for
the recreation park.
C. Northern Region
In the northern region, 34 sites were identified in Perak, 5
sites in Kedah, 10 sites in Kelantan and 3 sites in Terengganu.
There was no site in P. Pinang and Perlis suitable for micro
hydro generation because
characteristics. Moreover, almost all the areas were well
developed with electricity and there is little or no necessity for
generating electricity from micro hydro scheme.
Out of 34 sites in Perak, 30 sites were identified along the
west of Titiwangsa range covering Chendriang, Tanjung
Malim, Tapah, Gopeng, Kampar, Kuala Kangsar and
Lenggong. Another, 4 sites were identified along Bintang
range covering Larut. Table 7 shows the identified sites in
Along the hilly region of West Titiwangsa range of Perak,
14 sites were identified as suitable for off grid generation and
16 sites as alternative off grid connections. For the off grid
connections, 4 sites were identified in Tanjung Malim, 2 sites
in Tapah, 2 sites in Kampar, 1 site in Lenggong and 5 sites in
Kuala Kangsar. From the reconnaissance studies carried out,
all these sites were located near the orang asli settlements of
Pos Bersih, Pos Jerenang, Pos Bekau, Pos Atap, Pos Piah, Pos
Perwor, Pos Yom, Pos Legap and Fort Ber. Although all the
sites are far inside the jungle, they are accessible by motor-
able track via 4 wheel drive. From the map studies and
of less suitable terrain
hydrology studies, these sites are suitable for micro hydro
generation because of the good terrain characteristics and
availability of perennial streams within the orang asli
settlements. All the sites identified have high heads i.e. almost
100m except for Pos Perwor and Fort Ber. Although Pos
Perwor and Fort Ber have medium heads of about 60m, the
bigger streams of Sg. Perwor and Sg. Mu maybe able to
compensate for the lower heads in providing adequate
available power, but of course with additional installation cost
compared to high head schemes. Since most of the sites
identified are located far inside the jungle, probably there is no
electricity supply from the grid, thus electricity generation
from micro hydro schemes would be a realistic hope for the
orang asli settlements to improve their quality of life.
As for alternative off grid generation, 4 sites were
identified in Chendriang, 1 site in Tanjung Malim, 4 sites in
Tapah, 2 sites in Gopeng, 3 sites in Kuala Kangsar and 2 sites
in Lenggong. 2 sites in Chendriang of Sg. Bekut and Sg.
Kinchan may serve as alternative electricity sources for the
mining activities there. 4 sites in Tapah located along Tapah –
Cameron highland road and these sites are suitable for
alternative electricity generation for the orang asli settlements.
The sites in Gopeng, Lenggong, Tanjung Malim, and Kuala
Kangsar may serve as alternative generation for the nearby
villages. These sites were considered because of the good
terrain characteristics in providing high head with reliable
water source from the streams.
As for hilly region of Bintang range, the 4 sites predicted
in Larut area may serve as alternative off grid generation in
the future for the nearby villages. Good terrain characteristics,
availability of perennial streams and easy accessibility made
the sites worth considering for micro hydro schemes in the
In Kedah, 1 site in Baling, 2 sites in Langkawi island and
1 site in Sik were predicted to have micro hydro capability but
only as alternative off grid generation. This is because all the
nearby villages have electricity supplied by TNB. The
installation cost would be cheap as the sites have high heads
and are easily accessible. Table 8 shows the identified sites in
In Kelantan, 10 sites are suitable for micro hydro
generation along East Titiwangsa range covering Gua
Musang. Table 9 shows the identified sites. 9 of the sites may
serve as off grid connections and 1 site as alternative off grid
connection. The 9 sites are suitable for providing electricity to
orang asli settlement of Pos Gob, Pos Belatim, Pos Brook,
Fort Ber, and Fort Hau. These settlements are located far
inside the jungle and only accessible by jungle trekking or
helicopter. From the map studies conducted, the hilly region in
these areas referred to as Mount Chamah, Samoh Hill, Perahat
Hill, Batu Papan Hill, Serawok Hill, Sebor Hill, and Perawas
Hill were found to have good terrain characteristics and good
catchment areas. These sites have high heads and year round