Saturday, January 08, 2005

Alternative Energy Vietnam: Pico Hydro - Small Scale Hydro-Electric Energy

Hanoi, the booming capital of Vietnam, according to the BBC epitomises the country's Asian tiger status. But while the standard of living in the cities has risen dramatically over the last few decades, in the countryside it is a different story.

The mountainous Da Bac province, outside Hanoi, is home to the Muong indigenous ethnic group. Many are rice farmers and few can afford the electricity from the new pylons that line the valleys. Instead, they are turning to a low-priced alternative.

Pico Hydro is a small-scale version of conventional hydro-electric power generation. The streams at the bottom of the valleys are powering a low-tech grid for the people of Da Bac.

Pico Hydro units need only a constant water supply and a slope with a one-metre drop. This produces a flow rate that can drive a turbine fast enough to generate electricity, providing houses with a direct power supply.

In some villages nearly every household has one. Imported 300-watt turbines cost about US$20, and have proved to be the most popular.

"Using Pico Hydro is really easy. There aren't any difficulties. It's actually more difficult to use the high voltage grid - it's much more expensive for us," says Ban Van Giang who lives in Da Bac.

"With better lighting, my wife can work and walk in the house easier, and my children can have better light to do their homework."

Vietnam has the world's highest uptake of Pico Hydro, with 120,000 units installed so far.

Cheap renewable means of generating electricity like Pico Hydro are key to spreading the benefits of electricity throughout the world in a sustainable way.

full BBC News article on water purification and small scale hydro power generation

Labels: , , , ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this really an alternative energy source? It must of taken some energy to transport the generator from the states. Of course it would of taken lots of energy to make the machine and to extract and transport the materials that the machine is made out of as well. I would guess that these activities were done by the use of conventional sources of energy.

You've got to think of net energy. An alternative source of energy can only be valid if its overall energy output is not more than it takes to create. I think pico hydro is great but again is it an alternative?

1:37 am, January 10, 2005  
Blogger James said...

You're right that it's important to focus on net energy. Net energy is an issue that I believe supporters of nuclear power have yet to adequately address (at least based on what I've been able to find).

I don't have any specific figures for pico hydro. As a guide a wind turbine will "pay back" the energy used in its production is 3-5 months (source: Modern large scale wind turbines can cost over a million dollars each, as pico hydro can cost less than twenty dollars I would be surprised if the amount of energy used in production could not be paid back in a relatively short period of time otherwise they would not be economic to manufacture. An important aspect to consider when deploying renewable energy solutions in the developing world is the availability of maintenance. For example sometimes photovoltaic panels stop working and there is no-one able locally to fix them or the cost of repair is prohibitive. From what I could find on the net the cost of repair for pico hydro is as follows:

The bearings, windings (generator coils) and seals fail on a regular basis, but can usually be repaired by locals cheaply. New bearings cost US$1.10 and new windings cost US$1.65.


2:12 am, January 10, 2005  
Blogger Avnish Katoch said...

check us, we are in the process of installation :

1:08 pm, April 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting up this useful site. Do you know any PV source that could be applicable to VN? PV may not yet give net energy but it might encourage people to think of renewable.
I am working on solar hot water supply and willing to be active with PV. Will be glad to receive emails through
Thank you.

3:02 am, July 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can anyone provide me with the name(s) of companies that isntall solar systems into urban dwellings in Vietnam?

Thank you,

12:26 pm, September 01, 2006  
Blogger Dhita Yudhistira said...

Can anybody tell me where this 300-watt turbines imported from? US$20 is so cheap for 300 watt of electricity and we have plenty of water here in Indonesia.

Thank you.

7:33 am, November 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These turbines are made in Viet Nam and also in China, which is probably where the $20 ones are from. For more information on pico hydro, you can visit We are hoping to run a training course together with Prof Heliyani Suharta on pico hydro in 2007.

2:25 am, December 28, 2006  
Blogger Unknown said...

can somebody give me an adress or telephone number where i can get a 300 watt unit in Vietnam or Thailand. I cant find it in the i-net. Best Regards

8:13 pm, February 12, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I run an adventure tourism camp in Kenya and financially, am unable to connect to the national grid (around $25,000) and so used a 2.8 Kva generator to power my camp needs - very costly. I have now installed a home made water wheel which gears up to a p.m. generator that outputs 10amp at 24v 24/7, into batteries and inverter. The head of water is less than 0.5m. It cost about $1400 incl weir, fabrication of wheel (self done), generator, electronic controls but excludes 8 or so experimentation failours, inverter and batteries.

Comments welcome

11:00 pm, January 21, 2008  

Post a Comment

<< Alternative Energy Home Page