Friday, May 6, 2011

'Mini-hydro plants viable energy alternative'

Mini-hydro power plants, once an unpopular method of generating electricity, seems to emerge as a viable alternative now spiralling fuel cost, especially coal, has had a hard hitting impact on power producers.

The importance of these plants have become more apparent now that Tenaga Nasional Bhd has started rehabilitating mini-hydro sites over the last few years as part of its green energy efforts.

The move will not only help the utility giant reduce its power generation cost and carbon dioxide emission, but also create awareness for renewable energy and fast track the government's aim to move towards green energy.

Last year, Chief Executive Officer Datuk Seri Che Khalib Mohamad said mini-hydro plants should be developed to supplement future electricity demand.

By 2015, TNB aimed to produce 330 megawatts (mw) of power from biomass, followed by mini-hydro (290 mw), solid waste (200 mw), biogas (100 mw) and solar photovoltaic (65 mw).

TNB has 36 mini-hydro plants but only 21 were operational, nationwide, TNB Energy Services Sdn Bhd Engineer Khirul Nizam Shamsudin told reporters at a media re-treat on the resort island recently.

The total capacity of the 36 mini-hydro plants is about nine mw, he said, adding that the remaining 15 mini hydro-plants were currently going through rehabilitation.

The good thing of mini-hydro plants is that it doesn't have the same kind of adverse effect on the environment as large-scale hydro dams.

Mini-hydro plants, in most cases, do not require a dam or barrage to store water, instead water is captured from a waterfall through a weir which is then chanelled through a 1.65 kilometre long pipeline which connects to the plant.

During the re-treat, participants had the opportunity to visit the Sungei Mentawak mini-hydro power station on Pulau Tioman which has an installed capacity of 0.5 MW.

Mini-hydro plants of such capacity require an investment of RM70 million. "We run the plant according to the amount of water received. Currently, the running capacity of the plant is 0.3MW," said Khirul, adding that during the dry season, capacity could reduce to as much as 0.1 mw.

Another advantage of hydro plants is that power can be generated, as per demand, by managing the flow of river water, which means less wastage of energy.

In the last 12 months, the plant generated 1,460,590 kilowatt hours of energy and helped reduce TNB's diesel cost and emission by RM864,698 and 11,684.72 kilogramme, respectively.

TNB operates a diesel power plant in Tioman with an installed capacity of 6.3 MW -- Bernama

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