Hydro power is one of the largest renewable sources of energy to be utilized for the generation of electricity. Small Hydro Power (SHP) in India has been standardized up to the level of 25MW.
India has an estimated SHP potential of about 15,000MW of which only 20% has been tapped. Hence, there is lot to be utilized in the near future to meet our growing needs. It is proposed to install 2000MW additional power generation capacity from SHP in the Twelfth Five Year Plan. This capacity addition is expected to come mainly from private investment.
Hydro power is obtained from the potential energy of water flowing from a height. The energy is converted into electricity by using a turbine coupled to a generator. The hydro power potential of a site is dependent on the discharge and head of water. These projects can be set up on rivers, canals or at dams. They are classified as Micro hydro (up to 100kW), Mini hydro (101-2000kW i.e. 2MW) and Small hydro (above 2MW up to 25MW).
SHP is economical and at the same time is compatible with use of water for other purposes like drinking, irrigation etc. It can also provide electricity in a decentralized manner. It gives the flexibility of installation and operation in a distributed mode. The power generation is environmentally friendly because it causes negligible or no submergence; minimal deforestation and hence reduced impact on flora, fauna and biodiversity. The standard indigenous technologies for the SHP are available and hence only minor adaptation to specific site conditions is required.
While SHP projects on rivers involve higher costs of civil works than those on canals, the cost of equipments for canal based projects is relatively higher. SHP projects generally cost between Rs.7-8.5 crore per MW. SHP projects generally have a pay-back period of 5-7 years depending upon the capacity utilization factor.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) supports SHP development throughout the country, both in government and private sectors. Apart from providing financial subsidy to new ventures, the government provides assistance for renovation and modernization (R&M) of existing stations. The subsidy is utilized by the promoter towards repayment of the term loan availed from a financial institution. However, the subsidy is released after the project performance parameters are achieved. The equipment too used is commensurate with the standards laid down by the International Electro-technical Commission and Bureau of Indian Standards. A special incentive package has been developed for the promotion of the SHP programme in the North-Eastern states, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. A number of states have announced policies to attract private sector entrepreneurs to set up SHP projects. The State Electricity Regulatory Commissions are now determining tariffs for these projects.
Water mills also known as gharats in the northern part of the country are traditionally used for mechanical energy. The Himalayan region alone is the house for about 100,000 water mills and are used for mechanical applications like grain grinding and oil extraction. Water mills have, generally, low conversion efficiency and hence improved water mills have been developed for mechanical applications as well as electricity generation. The scheme of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy for development of water mills is being operated with the help of local organizations such as Water Mills Associations, cooperative societies, registered NGOs, local bodies and state nodal agencies. Under the scheme, subsidy up to Rs.30,000 in mechanical mode and Rs.1 lakh in electrical/ electrical plus mechanical mode. The state of Uttarakhand has the distinction of already setting up over 500 such water mills in its remote and isolated areas.
While about 3342 MW capacity has been installed in the small hydro power sector, 2025 water mills/micro hydel projects were also functional at the end of February, 2012. The small hydro power sector is expected to get further boost in the Twelfth Plan.
*Inputs from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.