While the first time that moving water allowed to produce electricity occurred more than a century ago, in 1882, on the Fox River in Wisconsin, hydropower has always had a significant role in the expansion of the electricity among the world population. After all, hydropower remains as one of the most valuable renewable energy resources, and they represent a non-polluting, a non-radioactive, and a nonconsumptive use of water resources.
A major discussion that we have been watching in the last couple of decades relates to the size that hydropower dams should have. The truth is that even though hydropower has a lot of benefits, it also has some drawbacks, especially in what concerns with the environmental effects and social displacements that it can cause. So, more and more researchers are looking for ways to produce hydro power without affecting the environment.
One of the thing that is being discussed is the use of micro-hydro power plants in irrigation canals.
So, what are mini-hydro power plants?
Simply put, a mini-hydro power plant is one of the many kinds of hydroelectric power that are usually able to produce up to 100 kW of electricity, only using the natural flow of the water.
When there is a small community or just an isolated home, a mini-hydro power plant can be the perfect solution to provide electricity to people. This is just what happens in Japan, with the Momura mini-hydro power plant.
Just like hydro power dams have advantages and disadvantages, and these can vary depending on you’re considering big or smaller dams, mini-hydro power plants also have their pros and cons.
Mini-Hydro Power Plants In Irrigation Canals Pros:
There’s no question about the efficiency of this energy source, After all, it will only take a small amount of water flow to generate electricity with a micro-hydro. Plus, this power can easily be delivered up to a mile away to the location where it is needed.
When you compare the hydro energy with other renewable energies, it won’t be hard to notice that hydro is one of the few that produces a continuous supply of electrical power. Plus, one of the main advantages regarding the hydro power is the fact that it is more needed during the winter months and this is when exactly large quantities of electricity produced.
3: No Reservoir
One of the main problems that have been pointed out by researchers when considering the environmental effects of larger dams is the release of chemicals from the water reservoir. However, this won’t occur when using a mini-hydro power plant in irrigation canals.
The mini-hydro is mainly seen as a function that stands in the middle of the river. The water will only pass through the generator, but it will be directed back into the stream. This guarantees that the impact on the surrounding ecology will be minimum.
4: Cost Effective
The reality is that the difference between the expenses of building a larger dam and a smaller dam is already huge. However, when you consider the costs of building a mini-hydro power plant in irrigation canals, this is, by far, the most affordable solution.
Depending on the location as well as on site electricity requirements, a small mini-hydro power plant can cost between $2,000 and $30,000. This would already be a huge decrease in the expenses. However, the maintenance fees will also be a lot smaller than the maintenance costs of dams, either big or small, as well as than other technologies.
5: Great Help For Developing Countries
Developing countries don’t have the same budgets as developed countries. However, they do have the same small villages and communities that they need to make sure have electricity. So, with fewer costs, the mini-hydro power plants for irrigation canals can be a great option.
6: Integration With The Local Power Grid
One of the main advantages, when you decide to invest in a mini-hydro power plant for canals, is the fact that, most probably, it will produce too much energy. So, you can get power companies to buy back your energy overflow.
Mini-Hydro Power Plants In Irrigation Canals Cons:
1: Requires Specific Site Characteristics
To take full advantage of the mini-hydro power plant in irrigation canals, you need to make sure that you have the right site. Some of the factors that you will need to take into account include the stream size (including the drop, output, and flow rate), the distance between the mini-hydro and the location of the canals, and the balance of the system components, pipelines, transmission lines, controllers, batteries, and inverter.
2: Expansion Is Not Possible
When you can find the perfect site for having a mini-hydro power, the truth is that, in most occasions, the flow and size of the streams will not allow the possibility of expanding it in the case more electricity is needed.
3: Summer Months May Be A Concern
In many locations, the stream size varies depending on the season. Usually, summer months tend to present less water flow which results in less energy produced. This is why it is important to know if all the energy requirements are going to be met during the entire year during the planning and research stages.
Summing all up, there’s no question that mini-hydro power plants can be extremely helpful in irrigation canals. Besides the fact that this is a great source of clean energy, it is both reliable and efficient. The truth is that the problems that can come up with the construction of mini-power plants can all be avoided if there are a good planning and research. The environmental impacts will be inexistent which makes it one of the best alternatives to irrigation canals.