Since 1984, SIBAT has fostered a network of dedicated, local champions committed to advancing sustainable solutions in their communities. A country-wide Filipino people’s network, SIBAT supports renewable energy applications, sustainable agriculture techniques, and water access solutions.
SIBAT’s community-based, sustainable approach has enabled long-lasting energy access for many communities in Abra, Philippines. Last year, SIBAT upgraded the Barangay Dulao micro hydro system, which had been in operation for 25 years! Local capacity building is an important element of their sustainable approach, and is supported through training offered at SIBAT’s Center for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology (CREATech) in Capas, Tarlac, Philippines. In fact, SIBAT takes part in knowledge sharing to build capacity across the region; for instance, in 2019, practitioners from Philippines and Malaysia gathered for a training session on Pelton micro hydro turbine fabrication, organized by SIBAT and HPNET.
To stay in the loop on SIBAT’s inspiring community-centred work, we encourage you to scroll through and ‘like’ SIBAT’s Facebook page. There you’ll find insightful updates on technical training for local community members, open source mini-grid management tools, videos featuring socio-economic impacts of energy access, and much more. Recently, SIBAT has shared updates on their efforts to distribute facemasks and supplies to vulnerable, indigenous communities. Be sure to ‘like’ SIBAT’s page to show your support and learn about their ongoing initiatives.
We’re excited to share the new edition of our video podcast series Streamside Chats! The platform allows us to dialogue with experienced practitioners about their in-depth experiences in developing sustainable hydro mini-grids. It brings together grassroots innovators and international experts, providing firsthand insights from the field, framed within multi-thematic analysis.
Intro to Speakers
Dipti Vaghela, the Manager of the Hydro Empowerment Network (HPNET), introduces the speakers, Bikash Pandey, Director of Clean Energy at Winrock International, and Bir Bahadur Ghale, Founder and Managing Director of Hydro Concern Pvt. Ltd. and provides an overview of the topic. Both speakers are renown for their pioneering work of over 35 years.
PART 1: Start up and scale up of hydro mini-grids in Nepal
Dipti chats with Bikash about the key actors that paved the way for micro hydro development in Nepal and the stages through which the sector evolved over the past four decades. The micro hydro sector is known to have its earliest roots in Nepal within the S/SE Asia region. In this discussion, we delve into the pivotal reasons for which the country has one of the most dynamic micro hydro programs around the world. Tune in to hear how multi-actor collaboration resulted in an ecosystem that scaled-up hydro mini grids, enabling energy access in over 3000 communities in rural Nepal.
PART 2: Impact of a social enterprise approach
Bikash dialogues with Bir Bahadur, taking us on a journey of the renown Barpak hydro mini-grid, developed by Bir Bahadur Ghale in his home village 1991, when he was 24 years of age. Being his first project and having no previous experience, he shares the obstacles he encountered and how he overcame them, including acquiring technical and financial skills to go onto developing hundreds of projects to date. We also learn about the impact of the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Barpak, the epicenter of the disaster, the rehabilitation of the micro hydro project, and the critical role it played in rebuilding the village and its economy. Established using a social enterprise approach, 30 years later the Barpak project is a prime example of a hydro mini-grid that is self-sustainable, providing electricity to over 1200 and many village-based enterprises. Bir Bahadur Ghale's approach has transformed the economic resilience of the community.
PART 3: Best practices for economic resilience
In this final part of the 3-part dialogue, we learn about Bir Bahadur Ghale's journey beyond Barpak, gaining insight on how energy access can be accelerated by proven developers. The dialogue also discusses different types of ownership models and the factors for success of each. The conversation concludes with policy recommendations to accelerate energy access in Nepal, and the role of energy access in pandemic era economic recovery.
Join the discussion!
Over the next few days, we’ll be posting the questions below, in our post-Chat social media forum. Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
In case you missed it
Check out our first edition of StreamSide Chats in which we discussed the role of micro hydro in contributing to long term rural economic recovery and resilience in the pandemic era.
📽️: StreamSide Chats - Edition 1, Recovery & Resilience
MADAGASCAR: MICRO AND MINI HYDRO INITIATIVES OF THE ASSOCIATION DES INGÉNIEURS POUR LE DÉVELOPPEMENT DES ENERGIES RENOUVELABLES (AIDER)
The electrification rate in Madagascar remains very low, averaging 15 percent nationally, 8.1 percent in rural areas and 60.7 percent in urban areas. While biomass, diesel, and fossil fuels dominate the energy mix across the country, there exists a great potential for small-scale hydro systems. Only 1.9 percent of Madagascar’s hydropower potential has been utilized, and yet hydropower generates approximately 68 percent of the electricity in the country. Its economy depends on tourism and the cultivation of paddy, coffee, vanilla, and cloves, which could be further enhanced through increased energy access.
Small-scale hydropower also presents great potential for ecosystem restoration in Madagascar. Healthy watersheds are critical to sustainable community-based hydropower, as mature forest cover ensures consistent stream-flow, mitigates erosion, and builds resilience against the impacts of climate change. As such, hydro mini-grids are a nature-based solution that promotes watershed strengthening. Investment in nature-based solutions like small-scale hydro can play a critical role in building climate resilience and safeguarding biodiversity in Madagascar, where more than 90% of original forests have been lost.
One of the leading small-scale hydro implementation organizations in Madagascar is the Association des Ingénieurs pour le Développement des Energies Renouvelables (AIDER). Read on to learn about AIDER’s efforts to advance small-scale hydro in Madagascar.
Established in 2008, AIDER is an association of about 20 multidisciplinary engineers working in the field of renewable energy in Madagascar. AIDER works on studies, design and implementation of hydroelectric and solar power plants. AIDER works in partnership with the Agency for the Development of Rural Electrification (ADER), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Tany Meva Foundation, the Institute for Energy Management (IME) at the University of Antananarivo, the Higher Institute of Technology of Antananarivo (IST), the Group for Research and Technological Exchange (GRET) and the Albert Schweitzer Ecological Centre (CEAS).
Locally-developed micro hydropower
AIDER has built eight MHPs, ranging from 7.5 kW to 100 kW, electrifying a total of about 450 households in rural municipalities of the Analamanga and Atsimo Andrefana regions. Five of the projects are owned and operated by AIDER. All of the systems use turbines that have been locally manufactured by AIDER, thereby having generated local employment. In addition to providing reliable electricity to households, the MHPs power town halls, police stations, clinics, churches, schools, and street lighting.
Partnership for feasibility and design studies
Since 2009 AIDER has carried out approximately 30 studies for micro hydropower projects (MHPs), including hydrological studies. In 2018 AIDER began collaboration with the Swiss Resource Centre and Consultancies for Development (Skat). On behalf of GIZ’s Renewable Energy Electrification Project (PERER) in Madagascar, Skat partnered with AIDER to conduct the following.
AIDER carried out hydrological analyses, topographical surveys, installation and operation of the gauging stations, installation of pressure probes, and recording tables with iridium antenna for auto data transmission. It also conducted flow measurements and analysis using the propeller method, conductivity meters, and an acoustic doppler current profiler (ADCP).
Mini hydropower for local industry and agri processing
AIDER and SKAT are currently collaborating with CEAS and UNDO to develop a detailed design study for the development of the Andriambe mini hydro project, having a potential of 225 kW and located on the Nanangainana River in Mandialaza.
The project aim is to provide clean and affordable electricity to three villages, in terms of household needs, critical social infrastructure, and productive end uses, such as carpentry workshops, feed mills, metal workshops and food processing.
Ginger processing presents a particularly promising opportunity to generate income in the villages. Ginger is currently sold as a raw product to passing traders at a very low price. Affordable electricity will enable the production of a higher-value product.
The site’s catchment area is almost completely located within the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. Although part of it is partly deforested for agriculture use, forest conservation will lead to a healthy watershed that is vital for the sustainability of the MHP. Further, the project will incorporate corresponding awareness-raising activities on appropriate management methods for local communities residing in the catchment area.
Last quarter HPNET board member Biraj Gautam described our project, focused on the development of a Turgo turbine design, appropriate for local manufacture in Nepal. Whilst common in larger scale hydropower and with some off-the-shelf products available, the Turgo turbine is not currently manufactured by micro-hydropower companies in Nepal. As a medium head turbine, the Turgo offers a viable option for sites where the characteristics make the choice between Pelton and Cross-flow turbines difficult. This article provides an update on our progress in the project so far.
After identifying a number of viable sites, we selected a site in Taplejung district where the existing turbine requires replacement after many years in service. For this site, our scaling model was used to show that the Turgo turbine is appropriate and can be used to directly drive a generator. Whilst similar to Pelton turbines, the higher specific speed of the Turgo means that direct drive transmission is feasible at much lower heads.
Unfortunately, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has prevented PEEDA staff from visiting the field site. A feasibility study is required to find out the technical and socio-economic features of the site and the community. Technically, we need to evaluate the current status of the civil structures and installed equipment. In addition, we require measurements of the powerhouse layout so that the new turbine can interface with existing components. From a socio-economic perspective, we want to understand how the plant is managed, whether the plant generates sufficient income, and assess the opportunity to maximise the plant’s capacity factor. It is important that we ensure that the plant is sustainable in delivering electricity to the community. We continue to monitor the coronavirus situation and hope to be able to visit the site when it is safe to do so.
3D CAD Design
Using the head and flow rate from the site and our scaling model, it has been possible to begin the detailed design of the Turgo turbine. The long-term intention is to develop a range of Turgo turbine designs appropriate for sites across the micro-hydropower range. We have been developing calculation sheets for all of the key components which allow dimensions to be determined. We have developed a parametric 3D CAD model that is linked to the calculation sheets. This allows us to quickly adapt the design depending on inputs into the calculation sheet. The 3D design is taking place collaboratively between the Electrical Energy Management Group at the University of Bristol and Nepal Yantra Shala Energy. The design objective is to produce a design that can be readily manufactured in Nepal with existing machinery and readily available materials. It is expected that detailed design will be completed soon allowing the production of engineering drawings to begin. Initially, the focus is on developing a complete design package for the site in Taplejung. This will include 2D engineering drawings, bill of materials, and supporting 3D CAD files allowing the design to be manufactured in Nepal. Subsequently, we will use the parametric 3D model to generate multiple design packages for the complete operational range.
March 2021 Workshop
Depending on coronavirus, we plan to hold a workshop in Nepal in late March 2021. The workshop will teach participants about the design packages, key stages in the manufacturing process, how to assemble and install the turbine, and about the operation and maintenance procedures. The workshop is intended for representatives of Nepali manufacturing companies but there may be several places available for international participants. In the longer term, we plan to make the completed design packages and the supporting materials available open-source online. We are hopeful that for local manufacturers across the Hydro Empowerment Network, we will be able to provide a design that increases their range of available turbine designs.
This article was written by Joe Butchers, PhD candidate at the University of Bristol. The project is titled Upscaling locally manufactured Turgo Turbine: Dissemination and Demonstration includes the Electrical Energy Management Group at the University of Bristol, PEEDA, Nepal Yantra Shala Energy, Turbine Testing Laboratory at Kathmandu University and HPNET as project partners, and is funded by Energize Nepal. The work undertaken by the University of Bristol is also funded through an EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account titled Development of an open-source Turgo turbine design tool.
Nepal is a country full of mountains and hills. Access to the electricity grid has always been a difficult task due to difficult terrains and cost involved. Thanks to its abundant water resources, support from development partners and government policy, micro hydropower technology was introduced nearly fifty years ago in Nepal. Today more than 30,000 hydro stations with an installed capacity less than 999 kW have been installed in the country generating more than 30 MW of electricity, which provides electricity access to more than 300,000 households. Most of them were implemented under a unique model of rural electrification where the rural communities were put in charge of constructing, owning and managing hydropower plants with the government of Nepal and many I/NGOs providing subsidy and technical support.
Nepal is considered as one of the best examples in the field of micro hydropower development. This sector is able to draw global attention. Today, Nepal can share its best practices, and lessons learnt on how capacity can be built in rural communities without access to electricity to own, build and run their own mini-grid systems. Through this, Nepal has developed an excellent working experience in micro hydropower plants which contributes to the national economy and community livelihoods. However, development of the technology has not moved forward since its introduction.
A brief on MHP manufacturing in Nepal
Today, more than 80% of installed turbines in Nepal are either Crossflow or Pelton. Both the technologies were introduced in Nepal in the early 1970's. The Crossflow turbine was first manufactured in Balaju Yantra Shala Pvt. Ltd. The Pelton turbine was introduced by Butwal Technical Institute. These two companies were the pioneering companies working in the promotion of micro hydro in Nepal where the Swiss and German aid programs were crucial in the development of the sector in Nepal. BYS and BTI were not only manufacturing the technology but also training people to develop in country capabilities. The trained human resources later started opening their own manufacturing facility in different locations in Nepal. They started product supply, installation, and maintenance services to abroad. We have been reaping benefits of the approaches that we learned in the early 70's, but there were few attempts to introduce new technology in Nepal and support Nepali manufacturers to develop new turbine designs locally. Further, decades of manufacturing of the same types of turbines has saturated the turbine market and some of the manufacturers wish to diversify their capacity but have not been able to do that on their own.
Technology transfer through a unique model
Research at the University of Bristol showed that the Turgo turbine would be a suitable design for Nepali contexts, fitting between the Pelton and Crossflow offerings and able to deal with the high silt content in Nepali rivers. Nepal Yantra Shala Energy (NYSE), a micro hydro manufacturing company in Kathmandu with an experience of more than 50 years in MHP had already observed the need for Turgo turbines in their manufacturing list. However, they were unsure how to progress the idea. They had purchased one small sized Turgo turbine set and kept it in their workshop. PEEDA has been working in the field of energy access, capacity development and research for 20 years. Turbine Testing Lab at Kathmandu University provides the facilities to test turbines across a range of power outputs. These 4 institutions joined forces to form a team to develop Nepal's capacity to manufacture the Turgo turbine locally. The year 2018/19 was spent working on the design, manufacturing and testing of the Turgo turbine at a Pico scale.
Advantages of the Turgo Turbine
The unit has been installed in Naubise, Dhading which is about 22 km from Kathmandu Valley. This unit is available for anyone interested to see it in operation.
To introduce a new micro hydropower technology to Nepal, it was important to understand the capability of micro hydro companies and the manufacturing processes that are available. This information can be used to ensure that the design of all components for a new type of turbine is appropriate for manufacture in the context of Nepal. A thorough study was conducted of the Nepali manufacturing companies which are based in Kathmandu and Butwal, central Nepal. Our study showed that manufacturers in Nepal tend to have access to the same equipment and materials, meaning that the processes for fabricating Turgo turbines tends to be very similar. However, as casting is an external process, the interface between the micro hydro companies and casting companies is a potential risk to the quality and accuracy of the Turgo cups.
The next steps for the project are to increase the technology readiness level of the Turgo turbine in Nepal. This will enable manufacturers to be equipped with all of the necessary information to design, manufacture and install Turgo turbines. A joint effort of all the partners, including HPNET, will be facilitated to improve technology readiness. There are two parts to this future research:
The project team will also install a micro hydropower scale Turgo turbine at a site to demonstrate its potential for the future. With these plans in place, we hope the future for the Turgo turbine in Nepal is bright!
This article was written by guest blogger and HPNET Board of Representatives Member, Biraj Gautam, who is the Research Team Leader of the project and Chief Executive Officer at People, Energy and Environment Development Association (PEEDA) in Kathmandu, Nepal.
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.
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.
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