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Major Differences Between Small & Large Hydro

Major Differences Between Small & Large Hydro

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Published by Deepak Kumar

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Published by: Deepak Kumar on Feb 09, 2011
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Major Differences between Small and Large Hydro
The hydro sector is poised to grow in the coming few decades due to the high level of importance given to it by the country and by the kind of investment that is happening from the private sector because of the various incentives being provided to them.Some of the reasons why the hydro power projects enjoy so many benefits are illustrated in this.A hydro power plant can operate as long as there is a flowing source of water, allowing the plantto continuously supply power as compared with other renewable sources such as solar and windenergy. The plants are more efficient in producing electricity, with conversion factors of up to 90 percent. The plants are also automated and require less people to function, thus saving in labor costs. Over time they have proven that they are efficient and reliable sources of renewableenergy that can last up to 50 years or 100 years as compared with their fuel-poweredcounterparts. Despite all these good points there are still a lot of controversies surrounding thissource of energy because of its environmental and social impacts. Here we will try to analyze thedifferences between the two types of hydro projects (i.e. small and large hydro) to analyze find,which is a better option for the nation.
Differences between Small and Large Hydro:1.
Definition: Energy Generated
Although no official definition exist for the capacity range of large hydroelectric power stations, facilities from over a few hundred megawatts to more than 10 GW is generallyconsidered large hydroelectric facilities. Currently, only three facilitiesover 10 GW (10,000 MW) are in operation worldwide; Three Gorges Dam at 22.5GW, Itaipu Dam at 14 GW, and Guri Dam at 10.2 GW. Some of the major large hydro plantsin India are; Bhakra in Punjab at 1100MW, Nagarjuna in Andhra Pradesh at 960MW, Dehar in Himachal at 990MW and many more. Many new plants of higher capacities are also beingdeveloped in the country. The current installed capacity of large hydro in India is 36878MW.On the other hand the definition of a small hydro project varies but a generating capacity of up to 25 megawatts (kW) is generally accepted as the upper limit of what can be termedsmall hydro. This may be stretched to 35MW and 50MW in Canada and the UnitedStates. Some of the major Examples of small hydro in India are; 8 MW SHP project onTungabhadra Dam, AP set up by NCL Energy, 3kW Water Mill in Uttaranchal. The currentinstalled capacity o small hydro is 2429MW.
Investment and Maintenance
Since small hydro plants are relatively small compared to large hydro plants, theConstruction and maintenance charges for them are lower. Mostly small hydro plants areused for off-grid applications as they can be set up in remote isolated areas and can also beeasily managed. The initial investment required for setting up of a small hydro plant variesfrom $6000 to $20000.On the other hand, the investments for the initial setup of a large hydro plant are much higher and they also have higher maintenance costs. The initial investment for setting up of a largehydro plant varies from $60000 to $100000. Similarly the maintenance costs associated arealso very high.
Small Hydro plants are normally located in isolated areas and are mostly off-grid systemsand are run of river based whereas large hydro plants mostly have dams or reservoirs to storethe water and use it as and when required to generate the required amount of power. They aregrid connected and are mostly used to meet peaking power requirements. Small hydro plantsare mainly used to power up small customers with low electricity requirements.
The up gradation of small hydro plants is very limited as there is not sufficient head todevelop the system to generate more power, but in case of large hydro plants up gradationand addition of new more powerful systems is possible so better utilization is possible.
Environmental Im
The environmental impacts associated with large hydro projects is very big because a lot of land and forest has to be cleared, similarly a large area also gets submerged which destroysthe habitat for a large number of plants and animal species leading to destruction to a lot of flora and fauna. They also give rise to lot of R & R issues as a lot of people living in theregion have to be displaced to other places which in turn increases the costs. The bestexample of such destruction is the Narmada valley project. It is a series of 3,200 dams to be built over a century on the Narmada River in the western part of the country. The NarmadaSagar dam will submerge 40,332 hectares of forest land, not including the 1,500 hectaresneeded to build staff housing and other construction facilities. The Sardar Sarovar dam willsubmerge 13,744 hectares of forest land. The Sardar Sarovar and Narmada Sagar areasshelter panthers, tigers, sloth bears, antelopes, barking and spotted deer, sam bars, black  buck, wild boar, porcupines, wildcats,foxes, hyenas, wolves, black langurs, flying squirrels,

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