Micro-hydro power: the basics

How does it work?
Water from the river is channelled through a settling basin, which helps to remove sediment that could harm the turbine. The water then flows into the Forebay Tank where it is directed downhill through a pipe called a penstock. When the water reaches the bottom, it drives a specially designed turbine to produce the electricity.

Why is it needed?
Of course, every community’s particular needs are different. But in general, access to energy is a vital stage in the development of remote villages like these. It can lead to swift and significant improvements in education, sanitation, healthcare and the overall standard of living. These benefits are achieved both directly - as in the provision of light and indirectly - as the time and money that people save is redirected into other projects.

How long will it last?
Micro-hydro systems like these are designed to operate for a minimum of twenty years if they are properly looked after. That’s why we train local people to build and maintain their own

And by making a small charge for use. which are much cheaper than using conventional approaches and technolgies. From our experience. What does it cost? Costs are different for every case. micro-hydro has a positive effect on the local environment. micro-hydro generators have practically no effect on the environment. And because they don’t depend on dams to store and direct water. What’s the environmental impact? Unlike traditional power stations that use fossil fuels.system. they’re also better for the environment than large-scale hydroelectric stations. Once schemes are set up.200 to £4. by reducing the need to cut down trees for firewood and increasing farming efficiency. when using appropriate technologies. In fact. the cost varies from approximately £1. . they should continue to function indefinitely without any more external funding. communities can accumulate enough money to pay for the replacement of the unit at the end of its useful life. and it is impossible to give an accurate figure without knowing the specifics of the site.000 per installed kW.

sustainable and small-scale technology that harnesses the energy of falling water to make electricity. Mbuiru The Tungu-Kabri micro-hydro power project in Kenya is a cheap. which in turn can lead to increased poverty. the project benefits 200 households (around 1. education or income generation. areas. hunger and ill health. families spend at least a third of their income on kerosene for lighting and diesel for the milling of grain. in a country where nearly 80 percent of the population rely on farming for a living. 96 per cent off Kenyans live without access to grid electricity. Kenyan women also devote a huge amount of time collecting. The Tungu-Kabri Micro-hydro Power Project is the first of its kind in Kenya. even in the face of drought. poor farmers face declining yields and incomes in the traditional coffee and tea growing areas which pushes them into even more biting poverty. This can only add to environmental damage.000 people) in the Mbuiru village river community. ‘clean’ energy is acute. Putting the power in people’s hands . In rural homes.and keeps on working. processing and using wood and dung for cooking . they will be forced to clear forests in higher. The project is a cheap. The problem Life is hard for the women and men in rural Kenya and the need for access to modern. And according to the UN. diesel for milling and kerosene for lighting . It also alleviates the environmental problems associated with using wood and dung for cooking.Microhydro in Kenya Tungu-Kabri project. Just to survive. Funded by the United Nations Development Programme and developed by Practical Action East Africa and the Kenyan Ministry of Energy. cooler.time which could be spent on child care. sustainable and small-scale technology that harnesses the energy of falling water to make electricity.

The villagers hold their breath. It works and all that effort seems worthwhile.the only hydro-power people know about means big dams. The River Tubgu. however bad the drought. The villagers have many questions . Many rivers do keep flowing. Step 1 The project site is assessed. However. . ‘All of us will feel the benefit for many years to come’. Families work together. People learn to mend as they build. It is very poor.is a typical rural village in Kenya.Mbuiru village . near Mbuiru is perfect. says villager Mrs Kaburu. and build a tank to hold the water before it goes through ‘penstock’ pipes into a turbine. with few opportunities for change. Step 3 Villagers hold back the river and start to build an intake weir and canal. power! The powerhouse goes up. how it works and how it would belong to all the villagers. VIDEO: Adam Hart-Davis reports on the impact of the Tungu-Kabri micro-hydro project Impact on the future "This power is wonderful’. Practical Action looked at flow records going back 40 years. shifting stones and laying concrete. giving up every Thursday to labour for months. digging. Step 2 Practical Action explains its intentions at a village meeting. in goes the machinery. The canal alone takes many weeks to build. so they can do repairs themselves. Now the river can be released. Step 4 Groups of villagers toil to make bays to clean dirt out of the water. to ensure the water power project will work. Step 5 Two years later. Practical Action explains how a small scheme could help them.200 kilometres north of Nairobi . Everyone is eager. villagers in Mbuiru had the will to help themselves to generate the power to beat drought and poverty.

so the environment benefits. and even schooling for their children. Also. to help buy clothes. In the months ahead. the villagers will be able to light their homes. This amount can light 90 homes and Practical Action estimates that the power the system generates will benefit about 200 households. food.The project generates an estimated 18 kilowatts of electrical energy. Further read . This will bring them a little vital money. save time and run small enterprises with this power. water power also means less wood is used .

Not a Child") and consider: • • • what media were used to communicate the message? why do you think these media were chosen? who makes the decision about the choice of media in the UK? Graphic products in Nepal . In particular.The Andhi Khola Project Nepal is a small country in the Himalayan Mountains between India and Tibet. One of the areas where electrification is taking place is in Andhi Khola. The villagers from Andhi Khola were involved in identifying the best methods of communicating key messages about safe use of electricity to the people in the region Pause for thought Identify a national or local campaign in the UK (eg "Kill Your Speed. except that often they are designed to generate electricity for grinding grain. Over recent years. Hydro schemes are similar to watermills. people need help with using it safely and efficiently. cooking and lighting. small-scale hydro schemes have been installed to bring electricity to rural villages. people have questions about: • • • how can you use electricity economically? what is the best way to use an electric cooker? is electricity dangerous to use? Nepalese woman using an electric cooker A public education campaign is an important part of rural electrification work. when it is first available in a village. Electricity makes a real difference to people’s lives but.

Pause for thought In the UK. trainers would call at people’s homes with a set of materials for the trainers to refer to during home visits. Street theatre performances in the locality were held when people were not at work. The materials were flash cards to stimulate discussion about key safety messages. The key messages of the campaign were: • • • safety in the house safety outside the house end uses of electricity Starting the day after theatre performances. It was decided that a number of different media were necessary to communicate key messages. Identify a range of graphical products in the UK that communicate messages of safety or efficiency and consider: • Do they meet the needs of the users? Do you think the media of communication used in Andhi Khola is appropriate? You may wish to use these as starting points: • • • are the messages clear? does in encourage audience participation? is it easy to use? What other points do you need to consider? . many people do not read or write in a common language.In the Andhi Khola region. This means that instruction leaflets and booklets are not appropriate to the majority of people. pictorial signs and symbols are often used to communicate information. teaching about the use and safety of electricity. It was important to find ways of communicating key messages that would be understood easily. A number of posters were also developed which would be left behind in peoples’ homes and displayed in public places.

Task In Nepal. Design a graphic product pack to support a public education campaign in the UK. The pack must be portable and should encourage participation by the audience. flash cards are used to teach rural communities about safe use of electricity. . This type of graphic product can be used throughout the world for public education campaigns.

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