Hydropower is a flexible technology, proven, improved and refined over many years, yet its site-specific features make it highly innovatory in application, which makes use of a wide range of available resource – large or small, storage or run-of-river, and including tidal range, canals and even water treatment works. Over 150 years ago it revolutionised electricity generation in the UK and it is still one of the most inexpensive ways to generate power, playing an important role in our electricity system stability.
This section comprises 18 case studies of successful small hydropower (SHP) implementation in a range of communities and aims to add a more detailed, practical perspective on the trans-formative potential of SHP and the best practices. Case studies give specific examples of communities that use SHP for productive use to meet their needs and improve quality of life. The purpose of this new section is to make the learnings drawn from such experiences easily accessible, forming a knowledge base that can benefit communities, decision-makers and developers elsewhere.
The cases demonstrate how reliable access to electricity provided by SHP revolutionizes the daily lives of communities worldwide, in particular in rural areas, creating employment opportunities, stimulating economic development, strengthening the capacity of existing infrastructure and local institutions, while minimizing negative environmental impacts. The following five aspects of SHP development are covered in the case studies.
Small-scale hydro (100kW to 5MW installed capacity)
is highly efficient and where suitable sites are available, it remains one of the cheapest forms of renewable electricity per unit. Small-scale hydro has a key role to play in the development of the world’s renewable energy resources. Clean and reliable – it is a valuable resource just waiting to be utilised.
Small Run of River hydro projects use the natural downward flow of rivers and relatively small turbine generators to capture the kinetic energy carried by water. Typically water is diverted from a river and fed down a pipe on a section where there is a significant drop in elevation. The water is passed through a turbine generator where the potential energy in the water is converted into kinetic energy via the mechanical turbine and re-enters the river at a lower point. Installation of run of river systems do not usually require a reservoir or dam and are a relatively cheap to build and have minimal environmental impact.
Run of River systems have the advantages of a long operational life time, in excess of 25 years, with minimal maintenance. Also these systems tend to generate the most electricity in the colder months when the demand is greater for electrical heating and extra lighting.