Today we are going to find a greenfield hydropower site using HydroDesk. It must fulfill an aggressive criterion: can it hit 20% equity IRR on a flat US$0.05 tariff?
To make our lives harder, we are also going to impose all the criteria below on this site:
This article is divided into three parts:
Let’s get started with Part 1!
Any prospecting exercise begins with turning on the River Slope and Protected Areas layers:
When we do this, you will see many snippets of small colored lines which may seem confusing:
This is because the default River Length value is at 100m. Let’s see what happens when we change it to 1,000m:
Now it’s much better. River Length here means that we are measuring the slope over constant segments of 1,000 meters.
In order of descending slope, the colors denote Red [100m/1,000m], Pink [50m/1,000m], Yellow [25m/1,000m], Green [16.67m/1,000m] etc.
Now let’s zoom in to the red location near the top. The slope value we see here is 104 - which means 104m/1,000m.
We don’t know how big this river is. Let’s turn on the river layer.
You will see there are two sub-toggles Catchment and Flow. Catchment will be in km2:
Whereas Flow (average annual discharge) will be in m3/s:
We found a pretty steep place but it’s a tiny one, to the point that the satellite image doesn’t show even show the river. Now let’s change the Min Catchment (km2) under River Slope to 400km2:
All rivers smaller than 400km2 disappear:
There are now very few pink or yellow lines and there are almost no red lines! As expected big rivers are usually not steep. But after panning the map for a while, we manage to find one red segment which has a catchment of 521km2:
As we zoom in to this location, we see from the image that we found a real waterfall - with a pond right underneath. Nice!
This seems like a very picturesque recreational location for communities who live nearby. Let’s takes a quick look upstream and downstream. About 3km upstream, I find another pink segment which has a slightly smaller catchment of 475km2:
Before we go any further, let’s check whether this pink segment is in a protected area by turning on the Protected Areas layer:
There are a few such areas but they are about 20 to 40km south of our candidate location. We seem to be in the clear for now. We should perform a check again later when we are drawing the transmission line and access roads.
Now let’s use the Dam Permutations tool to understand the characteristics of this pink segment better. This is under Toolkit (bottom right corner):
We draw a dam crest that is perpendicular to and crosses the river line. HydroDesk will automatically find where the dam crest touches the banks of the river. We just have to draw a long line.
The following things will then happen:
for three different dam heights at each cross section (you can modify these heights).
Note that we did all of this in about 5 clicks!
This is a very powerful feature that you can use in a variety of ways to reduce inundation impact and construction costs. You can also imagine using Dam Permutations in low-head, high flow, flat rivers which can have a wide variety of inundation scenarios.
In this exercise though, we will just arbitrarily decide that our dam location will be at the beginning of the pink segment to exploit the natural head.
To take a closer look at the slope of the river segment, we click on Elevation Profile:
We now see in greater detail that the first segment has 67m of gross head over a 1,000m distance. The second yellow segment is 72m/1,400m.
Combined, these two segments have a gross head of 140m over 2,400m. If we add a 15m dam and assume a design flow of 30m3/s, we found our 40MW, baseload site!
We are going to stop here for Part 1. Here’s a summary of what we did:
In Part 2, we will design a project and draw all the necessary structures around this pink and yellow segments.
Disclaimer: Any resemblance to any schemes or projects under development in the particular area used in this post is entirely a coincidence.
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