Pico-hydro Electric Power for Isolated Villages

Dartmouth College, 2009 - $36,900

With most of sub-Saharan Africa’s population spread over remote rural areas, the difficulty and high cost of running transmission lines to individual homes makes it impossible for much of the population to tie into electric grids. Local, decentralized solutions are the answer, and this team is taking that approach with the development of locally manufacturable, pico-hydropower technology. The team designed a novel, mechanical, low cost pico-hydro system that runs off of small amounts of water diverted from a river or stream into a holding tank. Water is piped down to a turbine from the holding tank, rotating a wheel connected to a standard automotive alternator that generates electricity.

The team has implemented its low cost system in Rwanda, and a profitable business has developed around it in which people pay to have batteries recharged at the station. This grant supports the installation of a system at a second site and the development of a replicable, scalable business model for local ownership and operation.