The UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the International Center on Small Hydro Power (ICSHP), a China-based, non-profit body that promotes this form of energy worldwide, launched the site last month (13 February).
“The first step is to share knowledge so that decision-makers, stakeholders, investors and local communities can benefit and learn from our resource,” says Liu Heng, the ICSHP’s director-general.
Small hydropower plants – producing up to ten megawatts of power (almost enough to run a 20-carriage, high-speed train) – generate this energy from flowing water. Such plants offer the chance of energy independence to rural communities that are not connected to the electricity grid, says the website.
The new site includes a map based on three years of data gathering that has 20 regional overviews and 149 country reports.
Each report is designed to be small enough to download on a mobile phone, so poorer people without access to computers can get hold of it.
As small hydropower technology is flexible and plants are easy to build, operate and maintain locally, they can benefit rural regions, boosting industrial development in a socially inclusive way, says Liu.
“Rural electrification can mark a revolutionary change for local communities previously reliant on gasoline,” he says.
Lara Jin Qiu-ting Esser, senior programme officer at ICSHP and one of the editors of the report, tells SciDev.Net that her organisation is “open to the idea” of including scientific research on small hydropower in future reports.
She also hopes to add case studies showing technical, social and environmental aspects of the technology, along with different financing mechanisms.
“If we can create an understanding that small hydropower is a renewable energy option and raise awareness of its potential at the national and regional level, then we can empower people to invest in its future,” says Esser.