Tungu-Kabri, Kenya - An example of a local renewable energy scheme in an LIC or NEE to provide sustainable supplies of energy.
There are huge numbers of people without access to electricity in many Low Income Countries (LIC) and Newly Emerging Economies (NEEs). This limits their development and their ability to improve the communities in which they live. It is often difficult in the remote and inaccessible parts of these countries to provide electricity as part of a national grid. This is because the costs of cables and pylons would be too expensive to link up with remote areas. The potential solution to this problem is to provide power at a local level, using local resources, via renewable energy resources. There are good examples of solar and wind power projects being used to provide electricity to remote rural communities in many parts of the world. One other way of doing this is to use small scale or micro hydro power generation.
Micro-Hydro Power Schemes
Micro hydro power schemes are an example of Intermediate or appropriate technology, which is a move away from big aid projects. It aims to use simpler technologies that are right for the people, right for the environment and right for the donor. Appropriate/intermediate technology is usually;
A) Labour intensive - utilising and creating employment for local labour.
B) Using sustainable technology and tools/knowledge of local people
C) Uses newly developed technology that are low cost and local which local people can manage and control rather than IMPORTED techniques and technologies
D) In harmony with the local environment.
Practical Action has over 100 projects worldwide helping over 900,000 people. One type of project is using micro hydro-electric power stations to generate electricity so people can work their way out of poverty. Practical Action promotes small-scale hydro schemes that generate up to 500 kilowatts of power. This provides poor communities in rural areas with an affordable, easy to maintain and long-term solution to their energy needs. This means that this is a great example of Appropriate Technology. They have developed micro-hydro systems with communities in Peru, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, and Kenya. These systems, which are designed to operate for a minimum of 20 years, are usually 'run-of-the-river' systems.
Micro-hydro power is the small-scale gathering of energy from falling water, such as steep mountain rivers. Using this renewable, indigenous, non-polluting resource, micro-hydro plants can generate power for homes, hospitals, schools and workshops. These small-scale hydro schemes can generate up to 500 kilowatts of power. This provides poor communities in rural areas with an affordable, easy to maintain and long-term solution to their energy needs.
The Tungu-Kabri micro-hydro power project, Mount Kenya Region, Kenya
How Micro hydro schemes work
An appropriate part of a river course is identified where there is a significant enough change in height of the river. This change in height is needed to have sufficient speed in the water to generate the electricity. Water from the river is channelled through a settling basin, which helps to remove sediment that could harm the turbine. Water is “borrowed” from a natural river channel and redirected away from the river via an intake weir. The water is channelled along a manmade channel to a steep slope, where the water is the redirected down that slope in a narrower pipe or penstock. This speeds the water up and at the base of the slope it turns a turbine, which then mores the generator. The electricity is created at this point and the water is then returned to the river.
Tungu-Kabri project in Kenya
Life can be hard for the women and men in rural Kenya and the need for access to modern, ‘clean’ energy is acute. As much as 96 percent of Kenyans live without access to grid electricity. In rural homes, families spend at least a third of their income on kerosene for lighting and diesel for the milling of grain. Kenyan women also devote a huge amount of time collecting, processing and using wood and dung for cooking - time which could be spent on child care, education or income generation.
And according to the UN, in a country where nearly 80 percent of the population rely on farming for a living, poor farmers face declining yields and incomes in the traditional coffee and tea growing areas which pushes them into even more biting poverty. Just to survive, they will be forced to clear forests in higher, cooler, areas. This can only add to environmental damage, which in turn can lead to increased poverty, hunger and ill health.
An 18kW micro hydropower scheme was designed in Tungu-Kabri. People can then buy the electricity for uses such as setting up businesses such as hairdressers, restaurants and charging batteries. This is also suitable for agro-processing activities such as milling, oil extraction and carpentry. Micro-hydro schemes are owned and operated by the communities they serve, with any maintenance carried out by skilled members of that community. So they provide employment in themselves, as well as providing the power to re-energise entire communities. The project generates an estimated 18 kilowatts of electrical energy. This amount can light 90 homes and Practical Action estimates that the power the system generates will benefit about 200 households.
There are issues over the seasonality of rainfall which can drastically reduce electrical output from the scheme. There are also competing uses for the water, in that people need it for agriculture, drinking and sanitation needs. Not all people in thy community can afford the electricity produced.
However, using the power, the villagers will be able to light their homes, save time and run small enterprises with this power. This will bring them a little vital money, to help buy clothes, food, and even schooling for their children. Also, water power also means less wood is used - so the environment benefits.