Hydropower is a renewable source of electricity, but in traditional form it not only destroys entire valleys for its reservoirs, it also destroys natural biodiversity. But that is how it used to be. Today it is also an ecologically sustainable source. With today's so-called smart hydroelectric plants, no valleys are submerged. Biodiversity is not destroyed by these either. Power One has therefore decided to utilize the hydropower in the small river that flows through Kabonga. It is a small river, but with a constant flow even during the dry season, and is well suited for smart hydropower.
What is the difference between traditional and smart hydropower?
Last century was the century of large scale. At that time, almost all hydropower was built with dams and turbines. The dams were used to even out production during the year. However, these dams have placed large areas of forest land under water, while at the same time they have become obstacles to fish migrations. Not only the forests in the valley above the dam but also the biodiversity of the river were affected. Fish cannot get up or down alive through a turbine, and as many species of fish multiply in special places, to where they must move, entire species have also disappeared from river systems.
The smart hydropower does not use dams. By removing these, the disadvantages of hydropower are avoided, but at the same time, of course, its purpose disappears, to level out the seasonal changes of hydroelectric power. When using smart hydropower instead this has to be compensated by combining power sources that have different seasonal cycles, like wind and solar. In this way, both the costly and environmentally damaging dam plant is avoided. Instead, freedom is gained from using small and inexpensive systems that are also scalable. Instead of a single large plant, the fall height can be utilized in several places. Today thereare plenty of different varieties of smart hydro adapted to different conditions. Power One in Kabonga will therefore use different smart hydro in different parts of the river.An example of a smart hydro that does not affect biodiversity is the Dutch Turbulent. A Turbulent smart hydro costs between $ 80,000 to $ 300,000, but it generates approximately the same revenue in three year under favorable conditions. The water flow in the small river in Kabonga is at least 1 m2 per second, year-round. This is suitable for the smaller turbulent power plants, which are located at about 55 kW. To calculate the power economically, you multiply the installed power by 7500 and by the price per kilowatt. For a 55kW power plant in Kabonga, the calculation is 55 kW x 7,500 x 0.24 USD, which gives an annual revenue of $ 100,000 for an investment of $ 300,000. The fall height of the small river in Kabonga is just over two hundred meters, and since each power plant does not require more than a maximum height of 4 meters, the river can accommodate a large number of these, without negative impact on the river's fish and fauna. However, there are more models of smart hydro that are suitable for different conditions.
A design of smart hydropower requires many factors, including flow, altitude, geology and biology. Power One's Peter Rinaldo gives in the following filmed reportage a picture of how the initial design work in Power One goes.