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Mapping the World One Small Hydropower Plant at a Time

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the International Centre on Small Hydro Power (ICSHP) announced last month that they have launched a new web-based knowledge-sharing portal on small hydropower. The purpose of the portal is to hopefully make it easier for developers, policymakers and other interested stakeholders to access data about the vast potential of small hydropower.

According to the organizations, there are currently 75 gigawatts (GW) of installed small hydropower capacity worldwide compared to a 173-GW potential meaning that more than 50 percent of the world’s potential small hydropower capacity is still untapped.

In addition to offering insight into the world’s small hydropower installed capacity, the database, which can be found here, contains 20 regional overviews and 149 country-level reports. For example it shows that North America has already tapped 86 percent of its potential capacity for small hydro whereas regions such as Central and Eastern Asia have developed less than four and twenty percent, respectively.

“Small hydropower is one of the most suitable energy solutions for fostering inclusive and sustainable industrial development,” said Diego Masera, head of UNIDO’s Renewable and Rural Energy Unit, in a statement.  

In the forward to the 2013 World Small Hydropower Development Report (WSHPDR), Chen Lei, Chinese Minister of Water Resources and Honorary Chairman of the International Network of Small Hydropower, writes that developing countries who possess vast small hydro potential but little technological know-how will benefit from the Small Hydropower World website. “Blessed with huge hydro potentials yet hindered by low level of development, developing countries still face a huge gap in terms of hydropower technology and equipment manufacturing,” he wrote.  Publishing frequent and factual information on small hydropower, he explained, “promote[s] modern concepts, updated technologies and latest approaches and experiences about small hydropower, in order to create opportunities for bilateral and multilateral cooperation, while highlighting it as a green and clean renewable energy to serve world development.”

To that end, UNIDO and ICSHP are collaborating with national institutions to facilitate continuous monitoring and collection of small hydropower data and are actively reaching out to potential partners to provide up-to-date information. The changes will be reflected regularly on the website.  

A Chinese language version of the website will be available soon and the organizations expect to release the 2013 WSHDPR in multiple languages in the near future.

Lead image: Small hydroelectric facility in Vietnam via Shutterstock

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