Plant the Seed: Flowing Water Powers Villages


Who needs a president if you can tap into your own backyard stream to power your sewing machine and lightbulbs? As I wrote on Planetwize last week, this is exactly what Honduran villagers are doing.

While the political crisis deepens in Honduras and the conflict between supporters and opponents of ousted President Zelaya may just be getting started, pico_power-150x150it is likely that many of the country’s poor will continue to scratch out a living in the countryside.  Indeed, rural poverty is among the highest in all of Latin America, with more than half of the population living below the poverty line.  That often means lack of access to clean drinking water or reliable electricity.

So how to change that? One way is through local hydroelectric projects. The word hydroelectric usually summons an image of a large mega-dam.  Indeed, Honduras has several large and medium hydroelectric dams that produce a large percentage of the nation’s electricity.  But like many other developing countries, that energy often doesn’t reach very rural and mountainous areas.  Lacking electricity, villagers burn a variety of fuels, from wood to kerosene, which can lead to respiratory problems and local deforestation.  Grid-based power just isn’t feasible, so creative off-grid solutions are necessary.

I wrote on Planetwize about pico-hydro projects in Honduras to bring small scale electricity to rural villages. Harnessing the energy of flowing streams, small turbines produce continuously renewable energy.  Pico-hydro is a term describing hydroelectric generation of under 5kW. This provides enough power to keep a few light bulbs lit, charge cell phones, run fans, and even power sewing machines.

In practical terms it means children can study and parents can get things done in the evenings. It means better health, cooler days, and easier communication.  It may even mean having access–for better or worse–to TV.

All this with the renewable energy source in their own backyard!

Read more on Planetwize.

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