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High Power

A farmhouse in Bhutan. Credit: Christopher J. Fynn (CC BY-SA 3.0)

A farmhouse in Bhutan. Credit: Christopher J. Fynn (CC BY-SA 3.0)

By Stephen Hughes

Micro-hydro power units could soon provide “SWAP’n’GO” batteries to villagers in remote regions in the Himalayas.

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Bhutan is a tiny Himalayan kingdom nestling between India in the south and the Tibetan plateau in the north. Over the past few years I have led a team of scientists and engineers from Queensland University of Technology and the Royal University of Bhutan exploring the use of siphons to drain water from glacial lakes to reduce the risk of catastrophic flooding in the region (AS, October 2015, pp.34–36).

We are now also exploring the use of siphons to deliver hydroelectric power to remote villages. The advantage of combining a hydro unit with a siphon is that no extra plumbing is required to hook the generator to a reservoir.

We normally think of large-scale hydro plants such as the Snowy Mountains Scheme in NSW, but hydro can be implemented on a much smaller scale. Most sources of renewable energy can be implemented on such a “micro” scale, which is not true of fossil fuel power generation. We are unlikely to see a home coal-fired power station for sale in Bunnings, or a home nuclear power plant in Harvey Norman.

Hydro involves the conversion of energy from falling water into electrical energy. The amount of power delivered by any electrical circuit is equal to the product of voltage and current. Likewise, the amount of power produced by a hydro unit is the product of pressure and flow.

Hydro units can be set up in various configurations. If...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.