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Renewable energy village power systems for remote and impoverished Himalayan villages in Nepal

Zahnd, A., Mckay, K.H. and Komp, R. (2006) Renewable energy village power systems for remote and impoverished Himalayan villages in Nepal. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Renewable Energy for Developing Countries, 5 - 7 April, Washington DC, USA



1.6 - 2 billion people in developing countries live in dark homes, without access to electricity, and 2.4 billion rely on traditional biomass for their daily energy services, such as cooking, heating and lighting. Lack of electricity and heavy reliance on traditional biomass are hallmarks of poverty in developing countries, and women and children in particular suffer enormous health problems due to open fire places. The high migration and urbanization rates in developing countries will continue, forcing governments to focus more on urban energy service provision and extension. That widens the gap between poor and rich, highlighting the relationship between poverty and access to electricity further. Nepal, with the majority of its people living in difficult to access areas with no roads is a typical example of that. Belonging to the poorest and most undeveloped countries, the per capita electricity consumption is among the lowest in the world. The geographical remoteness, the harsh climatic conditions, low population density with minimal energy demand and low growth potential, are some of the reasons why rural electrification costs in Nepal are prohibitive and the isolated rural mountain villages in Nepal will not be reached within the foreseeable future through grid extensions alone.

Nepal is not rich in fossil fuel resources but it has plenty of renewable energy resources, in particular water that is running down from the vast Himalayan mountain ranges in over 6,000 rivers. With 300 sunny days a year, the sun’s freely available solar energy can also be converted into electricity.

In some of the most remote Himalayan valleys in Nepal, among the poorest and most marginalized groups of people, some encouraging steps have been taken in regard to elementary rural village electrification. The local available, renewable energy resources have been tapped into, and through Remote Area Power Supply (RAPS) systems, miniscule amounts of power, in the “watt” range rather than “kilo-watt”, has been generated for elementary rural village electrification. In this way several villages have been electrified, for lighting purposes only, through different types of village integrated solar photovoltaic systems and the smallest kinds of hydro power plants, called pico hydro. The lights considered most appropriate and sustainable are 1 watt energy consuming white light emitting diodes (WLED), providing a minimum, but just sufficient light output.

This paper aims to highlight the urgency for appropriate and sustainable elementary rural village electrification in Nepal, in order to create opportunities to bring light into the dark, smoke filled homes of the poorest of the poor. It discusses the possible, appropriate technologies, such as solar PV systems for single homes and whole villages, pico hydro power plants and small wind generators, for small scale rural village power generation schemes. It describes and discusses some of the implemented village solar PV and pico hydro power plant projects, including the experiences gained and the lessons learned.

Publication Type: Conference Paper
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