Water powered computers
For a school facing an energy crisis a small 'pico' hydro scheme installed with help from Practical Action has come to the rescue. Pico hydro manages to produce energy from the smallest of river streams - typically a pico hydro scheme can produce upto 5Kw of energy.
The Batuwangala Maha Vidyalaya school in Galle Sri Lanka has transformed the lives of its pupils and villagers by introducing the internet and providing online access to the modern world. A computer centre with 23 desktop computers has been funded through the Secondary Education Modernisation Project (SEMP).
But there remained a problem. The SEMP grant only covered the cost of the equipment and the monthly internet bill. It did not stretch to paying for the electricity. As most of the students came from poor families, they were unable to contribute to the cost of powering the centre that had had such a positive impact on their lives. With a rising electricity bill, the school faced being cut-off from their link to an online world of knowledge and resources.
The school's plight was brought to the attention of Practical Action's Enhancing Renewable Energy Options (EREO) project. The team set to work to secure an alternative power source. A visit to the school revealed lots of natural nearby water sources and the plan for a 'pico' hydro energy scheme was hatched. Pico hydro can produce up to 5KW of energy from the smallest of streams.
A power house was built by students of the local Open University of Sri Lanka and materials were sourced from a pico hydro machine manufacturer. On completion, the power centre could produce 650-watts of electricity - a small amount but just enough to power the computer lab and save the school.
The Batuwangala Maha Vidyalaya school is now considered a sustainable energy pioneer. No longer does it rely on the main Sri Lanka grid. The pico hydro system can power four computers and all the light-bulbs in the school at the same time. The school's overall electricity bill has been halved as a result. The students have gained not only a sustainable source of electricity, but also learnt how they can produce their own energy. They've now set up a maintenance committee which takes turns in making sure the pico hydro system is working properly.
If you want to see the impact the computer centre has had visit the blog set up by the school.
Read more about micro-hydro
Harnessing water power
How micro-hydro works