In this regard, HPNET has developed the MHP Standards Tool, in collaboration with Tonibung, Green Empowerment, with support from the WISIONS SEPS, which compiles standards and best practices from different countries. It can be accessed here. We are working to add more standards to the Tool and welcome your inputs.
For certain technical aspects -- such as manufacturing -- standards do not yet exist. In this article, HPNET member Joe Butchers sheds light on the “why” and the “how” of manufacturing standards for micro hydro quality verification, drawing on experiences from Nepal.
A standard is a document that regulates expectations for a process, service, or product . If a company is able to demonstrate that they have followed a particular standard, it shows that they have achieved an acceptable level of quality and are compliant with the regulations. For a product, they might indicate the expected dimensions, tolerances, and materials. Engineers use them as guidance when producing engineering drawings or writing technical documents. They guide the decisions made by designers when producing engineering drawings that are used by machinists, fabricators, and technicians.
How are standards used in micro/mini hydro?
Within mini/micro-hydropower, the use of standards can ensure equipment performs as required and that there is similarity between equipment produced by different manufacturers. As mini/micro-power sites are often located in remote regions, adherence to standards helps to reduce downtime. When engineers travel to a site for maintenance, they are aware of the type of equipment that they will find, increasing the possibility that they can repair the equipment quickly. If a part requires replacement, it can be ordered to site with confidence that it will be fit for purpose.
In Nepal, a reference micro-hydropower standard was first published in 2005 . The standard provides a comprehensive overview of turbine selection, materials, dimensions, and design for electro-mechanical and civil components. Nowadays, the standard is not widely used by manufacturers nor applied during quality verification. This has resulted in a number of outcomes:
- variation in installed equipment and its quality;
- low quotation prices from unproven companies;
- long downtimes as typically the original manufacturer is expected to carry out repairs.
In Nepal, where the vast majority of projects depend upon a subsidy, there is a significant opportunity to incorporate quality verification that considers adherence to the manufacturing standard. As recommended by the World Bank, a multi-stage inspection would ensure that there was quality in manufacture, construction, and installation . Whilst expensive to integrate, the reduction in project failure and frequent repairs will save money in the long terms. In addition, the introduction of such checks forces manufacturers to improve the quality of constructed parts. The cost to manufacturers of not achieving a required standard would swiftly lead to changes in approach.
In locations where the subsidy driven model is less common, hydropower standards remain important. Where projects are private or donor funded, a required standard can be demanded from a manufacturer and agreed contractually. The project developer can conduct a quality check themselves or employ someone to do so, ensuring that the equipment meets the standard. HPNET has collected available standards online, these documents capture the experience of practitioners working across the world. To improve the status of micro/mini-hydro in relation to other electrification alternatives, ensuring quality is essential. By meeting the requirements of standards, manufacturers can ensure that hydro-mechanical systems deliver their expected power throughout their lifetime.
- AEPC. Reference micro-hydro standard. 2005.
- World Bank. Mini and micro-hydropower applications. 2015.