Moreover, he also outlines strategies and three phases of planning to effectively implement micro hydro projects.
The full text of the article can be accessed here.
|Hydro Empowerment Network|
We are glad to have Mr. Bikash Uprety, Technical Advisor at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH to kindly share his thoughts on micro hydro management models, with a focus on Nepal's experience.
In his recent Linkedin article, he explores four different management models, namely the community-based model, the cooperative model, the private management model, and the leasing model.
Moreover, he also outlines strategies and three phases of planning to effectively implement micro hydro projects.
The full text of the article can be accessed here.
Introducing: StreamSide Chats
We’re excited to announce the launch of a new video podcast series: StreamSide Chats! Through this platform we’ll chat with experienced practitioners about the ins and outs of small-scale hydropower and its wide-reaching implications for community empowerment. Join us, as we discuss technology, policy, environment, social impact and other multifaceted aspects of energy access and community-scale hydropower. StreamSide Chats brings together grassroots innovators and international experts, providing firsthand insights from the field, framed within broader, multi-country and multi-thematic analysis.
Edition 1: “Recovery and Resilience” - PART 1
Our first StreamSide Chat kicks off the series with a timely discussion of the centrality of energy access to an inclusive COVID-19 recovery, and the role of micro/mini hydropower in building back more resilient systems. HPNET manager, Dipti Vaghela, chats with decentralized renewable energy specialist, Divyam Nagpal, who shares his thoughts on shaping long-term recovery and resilience through the lens of energy access. The Chat highlights the need to rethink the way we measure impact -- to prioritize long-term objectives and support local actors.
Edition 1: “Recovery and Resilience” - PART 2
In Part 2, Director of Clean Energy at Winrock International, Bikash Pandey, joins the discussion, bringing three decades of experience in policy review, program design and implementation across all decentralized renewable energy (DRE) technologies. We chat about the missed opportunity of micro/mini hydropower as the mini-grid underdog, and best practices for supporting resilient, high social impact solutions providing lessons for the rural economic recovery needed ahead.
Join the discussion!
How do you think COVID-19 recovery and resilience can be shaped from the lens of energy access?
What barriers prevent us from shifting from kilowatts to social impact?
Over the next few days, we’ll be posting these questions and more, in our post-Chat social media forum. Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
In case you missed it
Earlier this year we released a new video, providing a glimpse of how local micro/mini hydro practitioners collaborate with off-grid communities to advance sustainable development.
Check it out, to better understand small-scale hydro, “the underdog” of decentralized renewables, and its proven long-term socioeconomic benefits.
WATCH: Who Are We: The Hydro Empowerment Network (HPNET)
Nagaland is one of the "seven sisters of India," the seven northeastern states of India, endowed with a multitude of indigenous communities, rich biodiversity and extensive hilly forests.
Earlier this month in Nagaland with support from WISIONS, HPNET organized a knowledge exchange visit for Ramasubramanian Vaidhyanathan, the Board of Representative Member for India also known as "Rams", to share his micro hydro expertise with practitioners at Nagaland Empowerment of People through Energy Development (NEPeD).
NEPeD has a well established approach and direction to do sustainable micro hydro projects. Moreover, due to NEPeD's work doing in-house manufacturing at their CERES facility, it is well positioned to support local practitioners and advance the sector throughout Northeast India. This visit aimed to support NEPeD in building on its considerable achievements
Through decades of work on micro hydropower initiatives in Eastern Ghats of India and elsewhere globally, Rams has earned the title of "micro hydro guru" within the network. He supports training, design and manufacturing of Pelton, crossflow, and pump-as-turbines, along with system-wide implementation aspects.
The exchange visit endeavoured to synergize NEPeD's committed efforts to Rams' several decades of expertise, in order to advance sustainable micro hydro sector in northeast India. More specifically, the purpose of the visit was to:
Rams gave a positive assessment of the casting facilities and availability of raw material. He has reported back that the CERES has a well equipped fabrication workshop with CNC operated lathe and milling machines, an arc welding machine, angle grinder and cutting machine. Casting fabrication is outsourced to the neighbouring institution, the Nagaland Tool and Training Centre. The aluminum castings for the runner buckets and the PMG cores are sourced from Guwahati foundries.
As for his assessment of the CERES fabrication workshop and team, Rams shared that the workshop is well positioned to fabricate turbines of up to 50 kW, and that the team is highly motivated and experienced in the installation of turbines. Moreover, in addition to the fabrication centre, there is a test rig available to test turbines, ram pumps and electric load controllers (ELCs).
Rams found that with the existing infrastructure, Pelton turbines and cross-flow turbines can easily be fabricated at CERES up to a capacity of 50 kW. He advised that larger units can be taken up once the team gets hands-on experience on the 50 kW scale.
In addition, communities supported by NEPeD do horticulture that can have significantly greater local economic benefits with electricity-based processing. Enabling this requires the NEPeD pico hydro systems to be upgraded to micro hydro capacities that can generate enough electricity for horticulture livelihoods. HPNET's facilitation of multi-stakeholders to move forward in this direction is a part of its initiative Social Enterprise for Energy, Ecological and Economic Development (SEEED).
Based on the outcomes of the visit, we foresee NEPeD upscaling its capacities as well as playing an important role as a regional practitioner advancing the micro hydro sector in northeast India.
Last month, practitioners from Philippines and Malaysia gathered for a training session on Pelton micro hydro turbine fabrication. The session was the second part of a two-part training organized by HPNET and Sibol Ng Agham At Teknolohiya (SIBAT), to strengthen local capacities in fabrication and manufacturing.
The training responded to the knowledge exchange needs of HPNET Members in the Philippines and Malaysia who require skills to design and build Pelton micro hydro turbines.
Following an online training in November, the in-person training ran from December 2 - 7 and was held at SIBAT's Center for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology (CREATech) in Capas, Tarlac, Philippines. The overall aim was for participants to acquire knowledge of the design, manufacturing and testing of Pelton turbines, including fabrication of the Pelton runner assembly.
Participants benefited from an opportunity for hands-on learning, in addition to technical and theoretical presentations.
Within Pelton Turbine Design, sub-topics covered included:
The resource person for this training was HPNET Member Mr. Ajith Kumara from Simple Engineering, a senior micro and mini hydropower specialist based in Sri Lanka. Mr. Kumara has extensive experience training practitioners in design and fabrication aspects of various electro-mechanical components of small-scale hydropower.
This training was made possible by SIBAT, WISIONS and Simple Engineering.
HPNET members in Indonesia and the Philippines are joining forces to provide high quality micro hydro equipment to community-based projects in Mindanao.
The ASEAN Centre for Hydropower Competance (HYCOM) and Pt Entec Indonesia, both global experts for micro hydro technology transfer, are supporting the Yamog Renewable Energy Development Group, Inc., the pioneering NGO committed for nearly three decades to providing electricity to marginalized communities in Mindanao, to explore establishing local manufacturing of cross-flow turbines.
After multiple online exchanges, in June 2019 HPNET Board members Gerhard Fischer and Ardi Nugraha visited Yamog in Davao City to gauge the local team's capacity for local manufacturing. Then in October 2019, Yamog's technical leads visit Pt Entec and HYCOM in Bandung, Indonesia to better understand quality standards practiced in Indonesia. The collaboration is gradually moving toward the goal of locally manufactured cross-flow turbines in Mindanao.
HPNET facilitated the start of collaboration between PT Entec and Yamog in 2018 and the network has benefited immensely from the ongoing contributions of both organizations. It is great to see continuous knowledge exchange (often self-initiated, as in this case) between these long-standing HPNET Members.
This past week, HPNET took part in several panel discussions at KIREC 2019, the 8th International Renewable Energy Conference. Thank you to REN21 and other organizers for an informative week, and for the opportunity to take part! We'd like to thank Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) and Alliance for Rural Electrification for inviting us to share on public-private partnerships for sustainable community-scale hydro. Our thanks also go to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) for the opportunity to discuss socio-economic impacts of energy transformation.
Micro hydro development in Indonesia started around 1991 with the support of GIZ (German international cooperation). Later on, Energising Development (EnDev) Indonesia implemented many MHP projects until 2014, with Entec AG Swiss / PT Entec Indonesia as consultants.
The ASEAN Hydro Competence Centre (HYCOM) was inaugurated in 2011 and is jointly operated and managed by PT Entec Indonesia and the Technical Education Development Centre Bandung (TEDC). In addition to PT Entec and TEDC, HYCOM was established with the support of:
HYCOM works to promote small-scale hydropower and disseminate know-how in the sector. Offering hands-on training and application oriented research, HYCOM endeavours to improve the implementation and operation of small-scale hydropower installations worldwide. To date, HYCOM has conducted about 40 trainings and workshops with 350 participants from 25 countries, and has hosted approximately 500 visitors from all over the world.
This quarter HYCOM conducted three knowledge transfer activities, which are described below by guest bloggers and HPNET Board Members, Mr. Gerhard Fischer and Mr. Ardi Nugraha.
TRAINING FOR MICRO HYDRO OPERATORS
In the past 3 months, HYCOM conducted two trainings for micro hydro operators. The trainings focused on Operation and Maintenance concepts and procedures, economic consequences of neglected maintenance, safety issues, understanding turbine characteristics and other practical issues of operation from water hammer, cavitation, synchronizing, alignment, balancing issues and very important environmental issues. The attending practitioners raised many practical issues from their experience, which will help us to improve our trainings with relevant subjects.
Training 1: Operators of Indonesian small hydro plants (July 8 - 12, 2019)
In July, HYCOM facilitated a training for 12 participants by PLN (Indonesia's government-owned utility) and KfW (a German state-owned development bank) “Sustainable Hydro Power Program”. This program was hosted at PUSDIKLAT (a training centre of PLN) involving 3 trainers from Germany. The training involved activities at the HYCOM centre, which made use of the hydro laboratory equipment, as well as visits to hydropower sites near Bandung (750 kW, 2MW up to 1000 MW).
Training 2: Operators of Sarawak, Malaysia mini hydro plant (Sept. 29 - Oct. 4, 2019)
A training event was held for 9 operators and engineers from the power utility of Sarawak, Malaysia. The training was conducted by PT Entec using the HYCOM laboratory equipment and visiting MHP equipment manufacturers, as well as visiting one hydropower plant near Bandung to study the maintenance system. (The plant, a 250 kW standalone MHP in a tea plantation, has been operational for 17 years using equipment made in Bandung.)
EXPOSURE VISIT: Ethiopia Practitioners (Aug. 30 - 31, 2019)
As early as 2008, an exchange of MHP know-how and turbine manufacturer training was held in Indonesia, conducted by PT Entec Indonesia and financed by GIZ. Participants from Ethiopia and Indonesia came together to learn general MHP know-how, and they received a license training for the T15- 300 cross flow turbine used in hundreds of MHP projects worldwide.
The achievements of this training were that three T15 cross flow turbine sites and some propeller low head were installed in Ethiopia and local manufacturers had “new ideas“ to improve their low cost turbines up to 25 kW.
This past August, PT Entec conducted another exchange event with participants from Ethiopia. From August 30th to 31st 2019, a delegation of EnDev Ethiopia visited Indonesia for an exposure visit. GIZ is presently planning the implementation 9 micro hydro sites in the frame of the EnDev project. The delegation (consisting of 3 GIZ/EnDev staff and 3 government officials) visited the HYCOM training centre, which is established at P4TK-BMTI, a training institution for vocational teachers in Indonesia. P4TK-BMTI is presently taking care of renewable energy (hydro, PV, biomass, wind) on the vocational school level. The delegation expressed interest to cooperate with this institution for vocational training in future.
We see a good opportunity for HPNET to support a south-south technology transfer linking the experiences of the network with the African micro hydro market.
Guest blog post written by Mr. Gerhard Fischer (Director of PT Entec Indonesia and HYCOM, and HPNET Board of Advisors Member) and Mr. Ardi Nugraha (Senior Manager of PT Entec Indonesia and HYCOM, and HPNET Board of Representatives Member for Indonesia).
They can be reached at email@example.com
This week, the SIBAT and CREATech team, from Luzon, Philippines, took the initiative to complement their 25 years of micro hydro development in the northern Philippines with a learning visit to Tonibung and CREATE’s work in Sabah, Borneo Malaysia. Tonibung has been the pioneer of community-based micro hydro systems in Malaysia for 25+ years, focusing on indigenous communities and social enterprise. Tonibung closely collaborates with Green Empowerment. HPNET's collective knowledge has been greatly enriched by the active membership of all five organizations.
The SIBAT team took time to understand Tonibung’s local manufacturing developments and their approach to linking MHPs to social enterprise for scaling productive end use.
The team visited Longkogungan village and Kalanggaan village, along with Tonibung staff members Bill Baxter and Willery Larry, and Green Empowerment staff member Dan Frydman.
Here is what SIBAT engineer Ms. Benazir Bacala has to say about the recent visit:
“Visiting the sites of Tonibung made me appreciate more the work of NGOs. It was an adventure that we could never forget, risky hiking, lots of crossing rivers...Very inspiring how Tonibung and its staff were also able to reach those villages in remote areas to provide sustainable energy to the communities and their efforts and dedication to help the people.
We learned a lot about their MHP with Pelton turbines, both direct couple and belt-driven systems, that were locally manufactured at CREATE.”
Last week, HPNET members in Indonesia and Malaysia came together to share their micro hydropower expertise and support each other's important work in energy access. HPNET Board members Gerhard Fischer and Ardi Nugraha of PT Entec Indonesia visited the TONIBUNG team at CREATE in Sabah, Malaysia to provide input on turbine design and fabrication techniques.
TONIBUNG has pioneered community-based micro hydro in Malaysia, working in partnership with remote, indigenous communities for over 25 years. Despite their ample experience and expertise, the team is always looking for opportunities to improve their techniques and expand their impact.
HPNET facilitated the start of the partnership between TONIBUNG and PT Entec, way back when, and the network has benefited immensely from the ongoing contributions of both organizations. It is great to see continuous knowledge exchange (often self-initiated, as in this case) between these long-standing HPNET Members.
In partnership with the WISIONS of Sustainability Initiative and Energypedia, we are conducting a 4-part, quarterly webinar series on hydro mini-grids -- starting this month. Join us! Details below.
Renewable energy mini-grids are a cost-effective and reliable solution for energy access. Within the technologies available for mini-grids, micro/mini hydropower (MHP) has added advantages. It's techno-economic characteristics, such lower levelized cost of electricity, per kilowatt cost, and no need for battery storage, make it economically viable for grid interconnection and productive end use applications.
Because MHP hardware can be manufactured locally and maintained by local actors, MHP development imparts local skills and jobs, which can evolve into local MHP enterprises. In addition, MHP strengthens catchment area and watershed protection, in turn increasing the climate resilience of vulnerable communities in hilly regions.
The number of hydro mini-grids in rural areas of Asia, Africa, and Latin America far exceed other types of mini-grids. As a proven technology with an extensive track record, micro and mini hydropower is the focus in this mini-grid webinar series. The objective of the series is to facilitate exchange among diverse actors advancing small-scale hydro, and promote approaches that lead to long-term success and optimal local benefits. Each of the four webinars will respectively provide insight on MHP reliability, sustainability, financing, and planning for scalability.
WEBINAR 1, MARCH 28, 2019
MINI-GRID RELIABILITY: THE ROLE OF TRAINING CENTERS FOR MICRO/MINI HYDROPOWER
Stay tuned for the upcoming webinars here at this link!
WEBINAR 2, LATE JUNE
MINI-GRID FINANCING: ENABLING THE ROLE OF LOCAL BANKS
WEBINAR 3, LATE SEPTEMBER
MINI-GRID SUSTAINABILITY: TRANSITIONING TO ENTERPRISE-BASED MICRO HYDROPOWER
WEBINAR 4, EARLY DECEMBER
MINI-GRID PLANNING: DATA MAPPING TOOLS FOR MULTI-ACTORS
The 10 poorest provinces of the Philippines are located on the island of Mindanao. As with other marginalized places in our world -- where rural, indigenous populations face social exclusion, frustration, and hopelessness in the face of extractive and inequitable economic and political systems -- portions of the island are controlled by separatist movements, with innocent indigenous communities caught in the crossfire between the government and the rebels. The situation exacerbates efforts to bring infrastructure for basic needs (e.g. potable water and electricity) and magnifies the innate challenges of rural development work in developing contexts.
In March 1993, a small, young, and local group of alternative development professionals came together with the mission to improve the socio-cultural, economic, and environmental well-being in rural Mindanao, by promoting the sustainable utilization and management of appropriate renewable energy sources and other natural resources. Versed in technical, ecological, and social aspects of sustainable rural development, the group was called Yamog, translating as dew drops in the Cebuano language.
Distinct from the conventional community development approaches at the time, the pioneers of the Yamog Renewable Energy Development Group, Inc., pursued a path that was anchored on renewable energy as a springboard towards positive, meaningful and enduring change at the grassroots level, to end decades of deprivation. It pioneered utilizing renewable energy, not only to lessen the dependence of poor communities on fossil fuels, but also to offer it as a vehicle for marginalized communities to become sustainable.
When Yamog was established 20-years ago, nearly half of Mindanao was un-electrified. Even now Mindinao's largest city faces daily blackouts lasting 12 hours. Yet, the nearly 2500 households that have electrified their villages with Yamog's help do not have to rely on the central grid and can access 24/7 electricity. Yamog continues to facilitate other communities in rural Mindanao and Visayas in generating their own electricity from micro hydro or solar power.
The effectiveness of Yamog's work is rooted its integrated approach to community-based micro hydropower. In each project, Yamog's long-experienced staff of 7 are committed to instilling the environmental, institutional, social, and technical aspects that are critical to the project's life.
Watershed protection and strengthening
Because the output of any micro hydropower unit is dependent on the stream flow, Yamog's implementation process starts with a focus on rehabilitating the source of the stream -- the watershed. Yamog works closely with the community to evaluate, protect, and strengthen the watershed of the proposed micro hydro site. After signs of a robust watershed and the community's will to preserve it emerge, Yamog moves onto installing the micro hydro hardware.
The process can add an extra year to the project implementation, often with additional communities to facilitate (e.g. where the upstream community managing the watershed is km's away from the micro hydro community downstream). Yet, with increasing climate change impacting not only micro hydro but also the community's access to drinking and irrigation water, prioritizing resilient watersheds is well worth the added effort and time.
Involvement of local government
A key aspect to Yamog's work is facilitating communities to generate support from the leaders of their barangay (the most local administrative unit) for watershed strengthening and micro hydropower implementation. Although challenging, this process has resulted in community hydropower units that have greater vested stake from the local government, and a paved path for the community to reach out to local officials regarding other village development needs. Support from local government can also help establish productive use for community income generation from micro hydropower, e.g. financing of agro processing units such oil mills and rice hullers.
Community governance of the technology
In parallel to watershed strengthening and micro hydro installation, Yamog facilitates the community to identify its governing strengths and build upon them, in order to develop a unified governance of the new micro hydropower unit. Yamog staff build the capacity of community leaders to manage and lead project implementation from its start. At various stages Yamog holds in-depth technical and institutional training for community members. This has ensured that by the time of commissioning electricity generation, the community's governance structure can independently manage the electricity tariff collection, community fund, technical operation, maintenance, and productive use of the micro hydro system.
Local network of technical experts
Since Yamog does not fabricate its own turbines and load controllers, it ensures that the hardware developers commit to delivering high quality systems and local training to community-level technicians. Having implement nearly 30 projects, Yamog has developed a village-to-village network of technical experts for civil works installation and trouble shooting of electro-mechanical components. For example, the village masons from completed projects mentor the masons of new projects, carrying forward technical lessons of earlier projects. This in-turn has led to a local knowledge sharing network that can sustain itself without the involvement of Yamog. In addition, it has helped to diversify the skillsets in indigenous communities, where traditional livelihoods are at risk due to extractive activities of mainstream development.
With a small team, instead of quantity of projects Yamog's work has focused on process and quality to ensure long-term sustainability. Every year the team typically commits to 1-2 projects and implements them with utmost care, focusing on the elements explained above.
While larger organizations, with greater number of staff and funding, can easily implement many projects in parallel, they can be prone to frequent staff turnover and prioritizing targets over processes. In some cases this has led to micro hydropower units that are not long-sustained and soon need rehabilitation. In this context, HPNET takes inspiration from Yamog's steady and process-focused momentum to establish community micro hydropower.
To give you a glimpse of the Yamog's work in action, below is a brief case study of Lubo village's micro hydropower project.
Case Study: Sustainability of Lubo Micro Hydro Project -- Two Years Later
The residents of Sitio Lubo continue to enjoy the benefits of having a 35-kilowatt micro-hydropower system. Since the renewable energy project was handed-over by Yamog to the Lubo Renewable Energy Community Association (LURECDA) in June 2013, the lives of the people in this isolated and marginalized community have steadily changed for the better.
Situated deep in the highlands of Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu in the province of South Cotabato, Sitio Lubo is an off-grid community inhabited by mostly Christian peasant settlers. It is about 65 kilometers from Koronadal City, South Cotabato. It is populated by 150 households who, for many decades, have been resigned to their dismal fate of being deprived of opportunities that would improve their socio-economic situation. No one among them could have imagined that their vast water resource would someday lift them up from their collective sense of hopelessness and helplessness.
At present, 127 households and selected strategic locations of the community are now brightly illuminated at night by energy-saving bulbs. In effect, the 35-kilowatt water-driven renewable energy system has freed the residents of Lubo from decades of heavy dependence on kerosene as the main form of household lighting at night, and as a major source of energy for other community and household activities.
Moreover, about 20 households have engaged in small income generating activities after having procured refrigerators to store locally-made food products (which are kept fresh because of the presence of 24-hour electricity) for sale. Taking advantage of the presence of electricity, both men and women can also engage in income generating activities even at night. Schoolchildren are inspired to work on their nightly home works because of the presence of good lighting within their households. Gone were the days when they had to contend with the unsteady illumination from kerosene lamps which spewed a lot of carbon dioxide that endangered their health.
Two public schools with a total of 560 students are also now enjoying the comfort of having unhampered electricity during classes. For the first time, these students are now able to use computers for learning, while teachers can now also use computers to prepare lesson plans, learning aids, aptitude tests, and reports. Places for important social gatherings that utilize electricity for lighting and sound systems, like the Sitio Hall and local churches, are abuzz with activities.
Early in the course of project implementation three years ago, Yamog invested a lot of effort in addressing the software component – that is social infrastructure building – a very crucial element for project sustainability. Capacity building activities in the field of technical operation and maintenance, financial management, organizational building and strengthening, and watershed management, have been conducted in order for the project beneficiaries to acquire the required knowledge, attitudes and skills that would improve their chances of effectively managing their micro-hydro system over the long term. Now it appears that all those efforts have generated very encouraging results as evidenced by the following:
Brimming with enthusiasm, the residents of Sitio Lubo are looking forward to the coming years with a list of more things to do. After two years of operating and maintaining their micro-hydropower system, plans of utilizing the almost unlimited supply of energy at daytime are afoot. Next in the drawing board are the construction of a corn mill, hammer mill (to produce feed stocks using organic raw materials for hog-raising), coffee huller, and other productive end uses of their MHP electricity. All these are aimed at raising family incomes. Fundraising for these spin-off projects would be a big challenge, but they are optimistic that they would achieve these additional facilities that they are aspiring for in the next two years.
There are few singular moments in life that redefine who we are; always in retrospect, those moments are abundantly clear. In October 2010, as a wide-eyed and barely-sophomore civil engineering student, I sheepishly attended a callout event for Purdue University’s relatively new “Global Design Teams” initiative. The lights dimmed on one presentation entitled “Development of Community Power from Sustainable Small Hydro Power Systems -- A Capacity Building Project in Bangang, Cameroon”. The title alone appealed to my self-ascribed environmentalism, my burgeoning lust for nomadism, my engineering intrigue, and my misguided “do-gooder” morality. I approached the presenter, Dr. Laurent Ahiablame, after his slideshow and, informing him that I had no prior knowledge of small-scale energy projects, inquired what level of experience is required to become a member of the team. He said, “All are welcome in this field -- the technology is built for everyone. There are many people who will guide you along the way, if only you show the dedication.”
Now five years on, as I prepare to take on a new role as Projects Officer for Green Empowerment in Myanmar, I reflect on the decisions, experiences, and people that brought me from that presentation at Purdue University to this point.
Between 2011 and 2014, I took lead of the micro hydro project in Bangang village, Cameroon, tasked with developing a 40kW scheme featuring a collaboratively designed and locally fabricated crossflow turbine. Under the auspices of Purdue’s Global Engineering Program (GEP) and the African Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology (ACREST), my team ran the gamut of development successes and foibles.
Our first turbine prototype was funded by a competitive student grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but barely a year after its inception, and merely three weeks into testing, that prototype was permanently decommissioned due to a catastrophic, indeterminable failure in August 2012. The specific mechanical failure was quickly pinpointed and reported in great detail in the team’s 2013 publication on the incident, but the devastating incident had a great bearing on my worldview as an engineer, as evidenced in the conclusion:
“Engineers’ constant pursuit of higher efficiencies in lieu of a true understanding of appropriate technologies, often a function of culture, and the resultant failures of those biases are well documented. The subsequent necessity for cross-disciplinarity is also well understood. The most compelling prospect for future research in the micro-hydropower field relies critically on the intersection of culture and engineering. All facets of true cross-disciplinarity and multiculturalism should be explored for successful project design and implementation."
Upon that revelation, my attention was drawn away from the engineering jigsaw puzzle that is micro hydro systems design and reinvested more purposefully in understanding the intricate and complex cultural fray that ultimately determines the success or failure of any micro hydro project. I found kindred spirits amongst faculty and graduate students in Purdue’s Department of Anthropology. My reflection of this revelatory time was chronicled writ large in my 2014 TEDxTalk, Community Power -- Realizing Sustainability in Development. This opportunity to speak, along with one last successful bid for funding to support hybridization of the Bangang system, effectively punctuated my tenure as team leader with the takeaway lesson that nothing trumps the culture element in community micro hydro. It is the single most accurate predictor of project success and failure.
Upon graduation, I was warmly welcomed into the familial micro hydro scene of South and Southeast Asia by Dipti Vaghela, a micro hydro practitioner and network coordinator for HPNET, and Dr. Chris Greacen, a small power producer policy expert and World Bank consultant. My conversations with them paved the way for the next stage in my journey: Borneo.
Through HPNET’s extensive network of practitioners in the region, I was quickly introduced to Gabe Wynn and Adrian Banie Lasimbang. Banie, an engineer, serves as the founding director of Tonibung, a non-profit organization located outside of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah which strives to provide rural, indigenous villages with access to clean water and electricity through renewable energy and sustainable solutions. Founded in 1991 to equip relocated indigenous peoples with the skills needed to adapt to unfamiliar agricultural circumstances, the organization now prioritizes integrated projects that serve the greatest human need, prove sustainable over time, and have the possibility of broader impact beyond any single community. Gabe, an anthropologist and environmental scientist by trade, wears two hats as a co-director of Penampang Renewable Energy Sdn Bhd (PRE) -- a social enterprise company set up to cater to Tonibung’s technical renewable energy demands, such as turbine fabrication and consultancy; and as the Borneo Program Manager for Green Empowerment -- a Portland-based community development non-profit which he has been representing in Southeast Asia since 2011.
Between December 2014 and May 2015, I had the great privilege of interning under Banie’s and Gabe’s instruction at Tonibung’s Center for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology (CREATE). CREATE, founded in 2013 as direct outcome of HPNET’s 1st Annual Gathering of Practitioners, is a local fabrication facility which has recently begun manufacturing high-head, low flow pelton turbines for the Malaysian context. By the time I set foot in their workshop, CREATE was already well-primed for a push into locally sourced, locally fabricated crossflow turbines -- an entirely new animal for the highly skilled indigenous workshop technicians to sink their machines into. With my background in crossflow design stemming from my years in university, it was easy for me to feel at home in the CREATE space as we co-learned the nuances of civil works design and site selection.
Things progress quickly at Tonibung, and by March 2015, we had a site selected for crossflow implementation in a remote Murut village of the Bornean interior called Saliku. Pulling once again from HPNET’s wealth of knowledge and resources, we contacted a legendary (and prominently open source) turbine designer, Owen Schumacher, whose 20+ years working in Afghanistan yielded the implementation of hundreds of community micro hydro sites. Owen graciously afforded us personal, in-depth design guidance, recommending a crossflow design branded the “Traditional Mill Turbine”, or TMT, by his organization, Remote HydroLight.
Fabrication of Tonibung’s first crossflow turbine for real-world application began with the TMT-100 (so named for its 100mm effective width) in late April 2015 and continues to this time of writing, with fabrication expected to be completed by July 2015. You can stay informed about CREATE’s crossflow fabrication, and all other Tonibung activites, on their Facebook page. The open source nature of Owen’s simple TMT design allows for, and necessarily encourages, modification by workshop technicians around the world according to their local context and conditions. A complete list of Remote HydroLight’s open source turbine offerings can be found here, and their contribution to the field of open source Electronic Load Controllers (ELCs) can be found here.
Certainly, there is not enough space in a single blog post to identify all, or even most, of the influencers who have blazed the trail for me to pursue community micro hydro, but suffice it to say that my experience and good fortune has depended principally on the kindness of mentors, peers, and role models to help me find each new rung of the ladder. If one thing is certain, Laurent’s assurance to me lo those 5 years ago still holds as true today as it ever did. “All are welcome in this field -- the technology is built for everyone. There are many people who will guide you along the way, if only you show the dedication.”
By Patrick Pawletko, HPNET member
Micro hydro in Myanmar has blown us away.
Thanks to ground-truthing research done by the Renewable Energy Association of Myanmar (REAM), we came to know that Myanmar's micro hydro practitioners quietly, over the last few decades, have been designing, fabricating, installing, and sustaining several hundreds of community-owned micro hydro projects -- without external funding or technical support!
This type of simple, steady, and scaled implementation of micro hydro is rare without external support. HPNET member U Sai Htun Hla has commissioned 150 pico/micro hydro projects in the last 15 years. His mentor, over 80 years old in age, U Khun Khaw, has commissioned over 100 projects and has stopped counting. :) There are several others, including new practitioners from a younger generation, Ko Khun Aung Myo and Ko Zaw Min, who bring university training to micro hydro engineering and design processes, e.g. CAD tools for drawings and Google for self-training.
This evolution is an example of how ground-truthing and in-person exchange can rapidly lead to new developments. Without REAM's study of the field situation and multi-actor dialogue, the local micro hydro practitioners in Myanmar would have remained invisible to the government and the World Bank, during a very critical phase in Myanmar's energy planning. And without the Myanmar practitioners' visit to Indonesia, their confidence to form an association to lobby for solutions to improve their work would not have quickly transpired.
We will keep you posted on how the micro hydro (r)evolution in Myanmar continues. :)
By Dipti Vaghela, HPNET Coordinator