Until last month, getting their houses and schools lit by electricity was a distant dream for the locals of remote Ringmo village.
Given the harsh terrain and poor reach of the state infrastructure, the village nestled in the southern edge of Shey-Phoksundo—the country’s deepest and second largest lake in Dolpa— could have been the last to enjoy the benefits of the electricity.
Not anymore. Thanks to the simple hydro-kinetic electric power system submerged in the rapid Phoksundo river, the village, with its tiny population of around 200 is now enjoying uninterrupted power supply in houses, hotels and community areas, including a birthing centre.
The in-stream five-kilowatt (kW) water turbine submerged in the fast flowing river (it was installed within a period of three weeks) is currently providing free energy of around 100 watt each to every household in the village.
The simple technology fitted with a polycrystalline diamond bearing and underwater turbine generator with rotors utilises the flow of the river to keep the turbine rotors constantly spinning, thereby converting hydrokinetic into electrical power. It does not require dam or penstock pipes to carry water from reservoir to turbine or any of the elaborate civil works generally associated with hydropower system.
“Gabion wall and a flume has been made with the help of local human resource,” says Peter J Werth III, director of Himalaya Currents Inc, a non-profit organisation based in United States that helped to install the system in Ringmo.
“The clean energy project utilises the flow of the river to keep the turbine rotating constantly, ensuring uninterrupted power supply,” said Werth III. The villagers are now using the power generated from their local river to illuminate houses, hotels, schools, and most importantly, to operate the birthing centre established inside the village to aid safe delivery.
While the Himalaya Currents covered the cost of the transport and installation of the equipments, WWF helped in project management, planning and coordinating with local government officials and communities. Similarly, New Energy Corporation, Canada donated the 5 kw EnCurrent power generation system designed by it to the village as part of their humanitarian project.
“Though all the necessary technical equipments and system were brought by us, it was the will-power and hard work of the locals, particularly the women, who gave their day and night to install the power system,” according to Werth, who is also a board of directors of Werth Family Foundation which has been involved in humanitarian works in Dolpa since 2011. The Foundation through the support of Himalaya Currents and local organisations has helped to install a 13-kW micro hydro in Kagmara in 2012 and a solar-wind hybrid system in a small school in Saldang in the same district.
The system is estimated to have cost around USD 20,000 excluding the local resources and labour cost contributed by the locals including women from Ringmo.
“We have trained three locals to operate and maintain the system and handed it over to the village,” Werth said. “We hope the villagers would greatly benefit from project and run it in a sustainable manner.”