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  Hydro
 
   
   Introduction
 

Micro hydro is also known as “village hydro” in Sri Lanka denoting its community based operation. The village hydro concept introduces a simple turbine, generator and control system to areas with small water sources.


The potential for village hydro is estimated at 1,000 villages covering about 30,000 households. A typical project will be an off-grid community of 25 to 100 households, interconnected through a mini grid, powered by a micro hydro system that can produce between 5 and 100kW. This technology has been confined to the central hilly areas of Sri Lanka and there are more than 250 projects in operation, currently providing electricity to about 45,000 persons (about 9,000 households).
   The Process
 


Sri Lanka is a small country in the sense of the limited hydro power potential and as a result, rural electrification using micro hydro projects has not become a commercial business. However, communities have understood the potential for hydro power to be adapted to suit the conditions in Sri Lanka and they have organized to introduce micro hydro systems themselves.


A project is built, owned and operated by a volunteer society formed among the electricity consumers of a particular village. communities can minimise the cost of projects through contributing to their construction and providing hardware such as cement, granite and timber. Tariff collections, loan repayments and maintenance of the project are totally handled by the society. World bank funded RERED (Renewable Energy for Rural Economic Development) scheme has become very successful in Sri Lanka under these conditions.

   
 

The Electricity Consumer Society (ECS), as the village organization is known, acts as either a registered company or a cooperative to access the loan funds from a participating credit institution (PCI) (mostly private commercial or development banks and finance companies). Technical assistance funds are available for a project facilitator (a consulting company) who will assess the water source, produce technical designs, and develop a feasibility study and a bankable proposal. Typically, these companies will support the community from the inception to well beyond the project commissioning. This mediation is crucial for a project to get off the ground, as there is little capacity at the community level to initiate projects at the moment. A typical project can be developed for approximately US $ 1,200 to $ 1,500 per kW.

Federation of Electricity Consumer Societies

   
 
These projects are an illustration of successfully developed rural off-grid initiatives getting a reliable source of electricity. Much of the success also depends on the unity and the leadership of the community. Teamwork is essential, not only at the planning stages, but also to ensure that everybody cooperates by sharing the limited amount of energy that is available in the system. The ECS, which constitutes the beneficiaries of the system, will stipulate the tariff (paid as a membership fee), approve households getting larger appliances such as refrigerators (and decide on an extra levy), maintain the system, and provide welfare services with funds collected etc.
  •    Socioeconomic Benefits of Hydro Power
     

    • Micro hydro provides more opportunities to generate income using the available power

    • Availability of electricity can encourage young people to stay within their communities as they can power small businesses

    • Grid can be extended to enhance public services such as providing electricity to rural hospitals, making it possible for health clinics to use refrigerators and giving schools the chance to use computers, radios and the internet

    • Micro hydro projects use a locally available resource, water, with which communities are very familiar. With an amount of training and capacity building, communities are very capable of managing micro hydro systems themselves, including maintenance activities
       Environmental Benefits of Hydro Power
     

    • Reduces the use of fossil fuels as it can be used to replace their use for driving machinery, generating electricity and for lighting

    • Green technology as it does not generate any greenhouse gases or heat

    • Micro hydro does not have the environmental impact for which large scale hydro systems are criticised as it uses only a proportion of the water in the stream and this is replaced only a short distance downstream
     
       
     
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