Small hydro: solving a new range of problems8 October 1998
Members of the small hydro community will be meeting in Greece on 16-19 November at a time of great optimism. IWP&DC’s seventh meeting on small hydro offers all parties interested in development or energy supply the chance to meet, discuss and plan for the next phase of this fast-developing industry
Members of the water power industry do not need to be told that small hydro is one of the most valuable answers to the question of how to offer rural and isolated communities the benefits of electrification. Now the benefits of small hydro technology have been recognised by others, and it is becoming a favoured technology of organisations whose aim is to aid sustainable development.
What is more, small hydro is answering many of the more complex problems of energy supply. It is used far more widely than in its well-publicised role in developing countries: in Canada, for example, automated small hydro plants provide valuable flexibility in a grid that serves widely scattered communities, and perform an important role in stabilising supply and reducing the need for spinning reserve. Delegates at Small Hydro ‘98 will have the opportunity to discuss the entire range of small hydro options, from the private generation schemes now being processed by Greece’s power company, to rural projects in the far mountains of Peru. They will also gain up to date knowledge of the most recent technology, and see how it can be used in projects that offer even the poorest users a sound economical solution to their needs.
The following examples show how widely small hydro is being used: as a flexible alternative to grid extension; as a high efficiency power supplement in urban and developed areas; and as a valuable economical tool to help power small industries.
Partnership with Japan Japan’s International Co-operation Agency (JICA) administers grant aid and technical co-operation in development sectors under Japan’s official develop-ment assistance programmes. JICA implemented projects in 151 countries in 1996.
Within the energy sector JICA operates in a number of ways: for example, it helps countries formulate energy plans and conduct feasibility studies on power development, and it sends study teams which work on development plans alongside members of the recipient country. JICA says it regards electrification as a priority subject for sustainable development, and it has noted the income disparity between urban and rural areas and the consequent imbalance in the accessibility of energy. It has carried out many feasibility studies on small scale hydro power because it considers that it offers many advantages:
•It saves consumption of fossil fuel and firewood.
•It offers electricity generation free of environmental damage.
•It enhances energy self-sufficiency, and reduces the need to use foreign currency to import fuel.
•It reduces the need for large-scale energy producers such as dams, with their attendant problems of resettlement and environmental damage.
•It offers rural residents electricity at a low running cost and long life.
An example of the small scale hydro power projects in a rural area, developed under JICA’s Development Study Scheme, is the Master plan study on co-operative rural electrification in Aceh and North Sumatra. Conducted from January 1993 to December 1994, this study forecast electricity demand and, following six months of site studies, it offered a development plan. In 1996, two of the four small scale hydro projects proposed in the study report were implemented under Japan’s Grant Aid scheme and one is currently under construction.
A second case is sited in Morocco. In 1996 JICA began a three-year electrification project, laid out in the Master plan study on decentralised rural electrification of the Haouz region in the Kingdom of Morocco. The purpose of the project is to develop the optimum electrification option for each of the 106 villages in the Haouz region — whether it be small hydro, diesel, photovoltaic or grid extension — and to formulate a decentralised electrification plan. As a result of the inventory study, 18 villages were selected as small hydro electrification areas and a pre-feasibility test was conducted through demonstration tests at three villages. The total cost of the project was ¥1.8B (US$13M), of which ¥0.8B (US$6M) was allocated to small hydro. The formal request from the Moroccan government for the Grant Aid scheme to implement the proposed projects is currently under consideration by the Japanese government.
JICA’s development aid is increasingly being used in power developments that use renewable energy sources, including small hydro. In this process, JICA emphasises the importance of the partnership between itself and other members of the development community, including recipient countries and NGOs.
A warm welcome for THERMIE The European Union’s THERMIE programme was launched in 1995, supported by the Union’s Directorates for Energy (DGXVII) and Science, Research and Technology (DGXII). The programme considers questions of security of energy supply and environmental sustainability. The THERMIE components aim to make better use of renewable energy sources — a definition which includes small hydro. Within its boundaries, the EU describes the small hydro market as ‘mature’, although it also ‘recognises potential for small hydro in many countries, particularly in Spain and Portugal’, according to its recent Sectoral Report 1995-1997. The Report also recognises that there are ‘substantial worldwide opportunities for further exploitation of the global export market’.
The programme acknowledges that while many small hydro systems are used in remote rural areas, and they are frequently seen as appropriate technology for developing countries, within Europe potential sites may be very differently placed.
Rivers passing through towns or cities may be a useful source for power that can be consumed locally, for example, and in these cases a project must satisfy touristic as well as environmental requirements. The programme’s aims are therefore intended to benefit both rural and urban schemes. They include:
•Demonstrating improvements to civil engineering or electronics.
•Assessing opportunities for cost reduction via standardisation of equipment and techniques.
•Using innovative applications in low head technology, sensing and control.
•Rehabilitation or replacement of existing projects.
Two demonstration projects, described below, are now in operation under the auspices of the THERMIE programme.
The Matrix turbine The Matrix turbine is being developed by Österreichische Donaukraftwerke in Vienna, Austria. The project aim is a full scale demonstration of the turbine as a cost effective generator using water diverted from lock operations for a conventional run-of-river hydro plant.
In the project the turbine, which has an output of 200kW, will be inserted into the stop-log-slot of the ship lock at the Freudenau hydro power plant. The turbine is arranged as a set of identical units of turbines and generators in a frame that has been prefabricated at the factory, and is ready for operation when it is transported to site. The turbine has an asynchronous generator and fixed pitch turbine without wicket gates, and is able to generate power with flows in either direction.
Run-of-river scheme The second project was commissioned in July 1998. Its aim is to demonstrate installation of a submerged run-of-river scheme. It has three bulb turbines using a net head of 2.6m and a flow of 140m2/sec to produce 16.76M kWh/yr from an installed capacity of 3.1MW. The electricity will be delivered to the local Heidelberg grid.
Among the constraints under which the contractor Neckar Aktiengeselleschaft had to operate: •Minimal effect on commercial river traffic.
•Conservation of the area — part of the most historic sections of the city.
•Minimal noise pollution, as the area is densely populated.
•Facilities for remote operation, to reduce operating costs.