Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Small-scale Water Power

One of the most environmentally friendly ways to make electricity is with a device called a micro hydro turbine. The turbine itself may be as small as 10 centimeters in diameter, and consists of spoon shaped cups arranged around the center of a wheel. The wheel is mounted on a shaft that turns smoothly on sealed bearings. Jets of high-pressure water cause the wheel to spin at high speed. The spinning shaft can be used to power a variety of machines, including electrical generators, woodworking tools, pumps, fans, and more.

Figure 1 A small scale hydro system with a micro-hydro turbine.

For communities in remote mountainous regions, small-scale hydro systems have a number of important environmental and social advantages:

Ø  Micro-hydro is simple to install and maintain. The pipes, generators, and other parts are usually cheap and easy to find, and are small enough to be handled without heavy equipment. This is especially helpful in areas where the terrain makes it expensive and difficult to build complex structures.

Ø  Micro-hydro is environmentally friendly. It produces no pollution, and requires only very slight changes to the flow of a small stream. No large dam or reservoir is necessary.

Ø  Because the electricity is produced very close to where it is used, there is no need for an expensive electrical transmission line to carry the electricity to the community from far away.

Ø  Micro-hydro systems are built with simple technology, making it possible for local people with basic training to maintain their own power systems. This reduces the community’s dependency on outside sources of energy, and provides valuable local jobs.

Figure 2 Small scale hydro installation can bring the benefits of electricity to remote communities without the problems and costs associated with fossil fuel or large dams.

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