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Small hydropower is a local energy resource, which can be usefully harnessed for rural energy demands from small rivers, where there is a gradient of a few meters and the flow rate is more than a few litres per second. Although the amount of available energy is site specific, most developing countries have abundant unexploited potential, which can provide energy for a large proportion of isolated rural communities.
The experience of Practical Action indicates that small hydropower technology is one of the small-scale renewable energy technologies most adaptable to local conditions, with great potential for sustainability. It uses local energy resources - water which is well known and understood by communities. Introduced properly, and within a sympathetic policy framework, it can promote local technology and skills. Small-scale hydro energy schemes can be entirely operated and managed by the communities, reducing costs and making an efficient use of human and natural resources.
Key Features of an "up to date" Micro Hydro Power Installation
- Modern turbines raised efficiency compared to traditional waterwheels.
- Proper planning and ensuring completion accordingly allows to reach predefined output targets.
- Assurance of a stable management and operation setting allows sustainable services.
- Ownership, control and accountability as to be clarified, especially if a plant is community operated.
- Was a mhp scheme originally purely mechanical, so the generation of electricity needs its own special knowledge. Additionally the handling of electric power requires its own safety features and precaution/training.
Local planning is a basic condition is mhp know how is to be newly established. This has timely efforts and needs professional instruction. The site specific nature of mhp requires nearly all related factors to be taken into account even on an early planning stage.
A first step, relatively easily to be accomplished by local know how is: how to identify potential sites. A so called pre-feasibility study, which basically checks head, flow rate, no. of potential clients and distances. Within gtz there was an attempt to launch the "mhp scout book", which could be used to train people to identify potential mhp sites or to check requests on their practicability.
Tips for the contracting of feasibility studies or planning of mhp sites in less developed countries:
- often flow and head are over estimated (check the measurements!) which influences the whole project negatively
- ensure that hired experience is not only theoretical
- often the planning is educed from big mhp installations and not adapted to the specific location
- try to find engineers who can plan according to actual needs and for cooperation with the local community (if suitable)