Streams and rivers could power hundreds of small generators
Scotland could produce enough new hydro-electricity to power a quarter of the nation's homes, a report has said.
The study carried out for the Forum for Renewable Energy Development said an extra 650MW of hydro power could be produced by hundreds of small projects.
That would be enough to power about 600,000 homes, and is about half the amount of installed hydro capacity which already exists in Scotland.
The Scottish Government said hydro was vital to meeting green energy targets.
Installed hydro-electric capacity in Scotland is already 1379MW, or 6% of the country's total electricity requirement.
We are talking about enough to power perhaps 600,000 houses - more than enough to power Edinburgh
Nick Forrest Report author
That is due to be boosted next year by the completion of a massive new hydro generator at Glendoe, near Fort Augustus.
Report author Nick Forrest, a director of consultants Nick Forrest Associates, told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that although Scotland had greater potential for wind power, hydro had the benefit of not having the visual impact of wind farms, and was more reliable as a source of energy.
He said: "We are talking about enough to power perhaps 600,000 houses - more than enough to power Edinburgh, say, so it is a lot.
"This is not talking about flooding gigantic valleys like the Three Gorges project in China, it is not looking at more Glendoe projects, this is starting from the ground up, what we call small hydro.
"It tends to be up to 10MW, so you do not need to flood a valley. In some cases the model did look at storage schemes, but most of these are what we call run of river - you would be using a weir and relying on the fall of the water down a hillside, so the impact can be very, very minimal."
First Minister Alex Salmond on hydro electric power generation in Scotland
First Minister Alex Salmond said continuing to tap into Scotland's hydro resources could bring massive benefits to the economy.
He added: "We have pioneered hydro power in Scotland, and what a benefit and a legacy that has been. What this report indicates is that is not just a legacy, it is there for the future.
"We are not short of water in Scotland, as this summer has indicated - some folk say all Scotland needs is a good roof.
"But nonetheless, it is great to see our water resources being put to such productive and magnificent use."
The Scottish Government has set a target of generating 50% of the country's electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020, with a target of 31% by 2011.
Welcoming the report, David Williams, chief executive of the British Hydropower Association, said: "Hydropower has long been the "quiet" renewable and this will stimulate development of new projects of all sizes in a country which has already embraced the benign and significant role of this technology."
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