Micro-hydro - Bringing power to Bondo
Using water power to fight poverty
In Malawi, only one person in 2,000 has access to electricity. And in communities like Bondo, this lack of power is putting lives at risk. There’s no access to medical treatment after dark, no fridges for storing life-saving vaccinations and long days spent collecting firewood mean there’s little time for education and work. Healthcare, education and livelihoods are all suffering.
But we can bring power to the people of Bondo, and give them a chance to change their lives, by building small-scale micro-hydro systems that harness rivers natural resources.
Micro-hydro power is the small-scale harnessing of energy from falling water, such as steep mountain rivers. The micro-hydro station converts the energy of flowing water into electricity, which provides poor communities in rural areas with an affordable, easy to maintain and long-term solution to their energy needs.
Using this renewable, indigenous, non-polluting resource, micro-hydro plants can generate power for homes, hospitals, schools and workshops.
We have developed micro-hydro systems with communities in Peru, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, and Kenya. These systems, which are designed to operate for a minimum of 20 years, are usually 'run-of-the-river' systems.
Micro-hydro: the basics
Each micro-hydro system harnesses the natural power of fast-flowing rivers to create a sustainable source of power. It takes water, gravity, hard work and know-how to transform the lives of a whole community. This diagram gives an at-a-glance description of how it works.
1. Water from the river is diverted along a channel, hand-built by local people with guidance from Practical Action experts
2. It's held in a holding tank
3. A gate opens and the water rushes down a pipe called a Penstock into the power house with a turbine generator
4. The water then returns to the river.
Why is it needed?
The biggest fear for any parent in Bondo is their child falling ill at night. With no electricity the medical centre is unable to open, no matter how urgently treatment is needed. When Miriam’s 3 year-old daughter Elizabeth was very sick she was forced to improvise with a home remedy. Fortunately for Elizabeth, it worked. Others are not so lucky.
Micro-hydro systems 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 system. And by making a small charge for use, communities can accumulate enough money to pay for the replacement of the unit at the end of its useful life.
Providing a micro-hydro system to the people of Bondo will mean mothers like Miriam can take their children to the medical centre when they are ill. They will no longer have to hope their children will make it through to daybreak.
Help bring power to communities like Bondo
Access to energy offers communities we work with simple yet life changing opportunities such as education, sanitation and healthcare.
It costs just £44 to connect two houses to the power supply from a new micro-hydro system.
£64 could cover the cost of 4 rechargeable batteries and wiring to bring power to family homes.
If 100 people gave £100 each, we could build a small micro-hydro power system, generating 10kW electricity for a whole community.
Please donate today and help bring power to families in Bondo. Power the future of this community and others around the world, today.
in-depth paper on micro hydro power (MS Word, 80k)
detailed paper on Decentralised Rural Electrification (PDF, 24k)
an in-depth book: "Best practices for sustainable development of micro hydro power in developing countries" by Smail Khennas and Andrew Barnett (PDF, 1.5Mb) (also available from microhydropower.net)
illustrated guide to financing micro-hydro (PDF, 210k)
12 reasons to exclude large hydro from renewables initiatives
A report arguing why large-scale hydro should be excluded from global efforts to promote renewable energy.
More detailed reports evaluating the success and impact of scaling-up micro-hydro power:
Up-scaling Micro Hydro: a success story? Rajindra de S Ariyabandu (PDF, 327k)
It is over a decade since Practical Action first embarked on micro hydro in Sri Lanka. This report attempts to capture some of the highlights in the development process and assess the path of up scaling micro hydro beyond the initial goal of Practical Action South Asia in the present context.
Social Impact Evaluation Project "Fund For the Promotion of Micro Hydro Power Stations (MHSP)" Dr Julio Calderón Cockburn, 2005 (PDF, 332k)
This paper presents the social impact evaluation of the Project “Fund for the Promotion of Micro Hydro Power Stations (MHSP)”, which was carried out by Practical Action (then ITDG) with the support of the Inter American Development Bank (IADB) through a Finance and Technical Cooperation Agreement.
Estudio de Scaling-Up en Micro Centrales Hidroeléctricas: Experiencias De Soluciones Prácticas Graciela Prado Ramos, 2006 (PDF, 618k)
This study looks at the development of the hydroelectric micropower stations with respect to the concept of "scaling up", using the experiences of Practical Action in Latin America. (Spanish language)