MyHydro increases access to electricity in Africa with its modular and economical hydroelectric financing solution


According to February 2021 “Unblock the African mini-grids market», Report that 60% of the African population lives in rural areas. Only 5% of this rural population have access to modern electricity services, without which sustainable development cannot take place.

In most cases, these rural customers have low demand for electricity, which presents a challenge for mini-grid developers due to the fact that the projects have high initial capital costs and a need for generate sufficient income to service loans and create modest returns for investors. This creates a chicken-and-egg scenario: low demand for electricity discourages investments in power systems which are a prerequisite for the same sustainable, pro-poor development that has been proven to gradually increase energy demand. .

The African Association of Minigrid Developers (AMDA) Benchmarking of mini-grids in Africa The report states that production costs represent 45% of the costs of setting up an isolated mini-grid consisting of photovoltaic solar panels, batteries, back-up diesel generators and other relevant assets. Battery storage costs are a major factor in the CAPEX costs of projects. Using a standby diesel generator for extended periods of cloudy weather or during periods of high demand further increases operating costs. Estimates place the Discounted Average Cost of Electricity (LCOE) for mini-grids around the world at around $ 0.66 / kilowatt-hour. This means developers must set prices that are often much higher than the retail prices charged by national utility companies to fully recoup the costs of their investments.

MyHydro, an innovative and transformational investment company in water and cable utilities for Africa, wants to lower the cost of electricity for Africa’s off-grid communities. MyHydro is banking on the fact that hydropower remains one of the cheapest forms of energy in Africa, and even in the world. Equally important, hydropower projects can generate electricity around the clock if the water source used is also continuous and the project is designed appropriately.

MyHydro Partners with U.S.-Based Turbine Manufacturer and Developer Natel Energy, which is supported by Revolutionary energy companies, Schneider Electric companies, and Chevron Technology Ventures, to bring Natel’s safe fish Hydraulic restoration turbine to Africa. The Restoration Hydro Turbine is a modular low-head turbine, which means that it operates with a hydraulic head of between 2 meters and 20 meters and at capacities of up to 3 megawatts (MW) per unit. When scaling is required, multiple units can be installed at the same site or cascade down the same river.

The modular design of this turbine opens up a whole new range of opportunities near major load centers such as small villages, commercial farms, mines, factories and cities close to rivers. Modularity allows designs to be replicated across multiple sites, reducing design costs and increasing scalability, lowering capital costs and enabling MyHydro to deliver more cost effective electricity to its customers. Rivers with small rapids of 6 to 8 meters can now be used to generate electricity, providing consumers who do not have access to the electricity grid with reliable and renewable energy. Off-grid hunting lodges and tourist resorts located near rivers can also benefit from the MyHydro and Natel collaboration. Natel’s RHT is compact and safe for fish, ensuring that the installations minimize environmental disturbance and, unlike diesel generators, do not produce noise or air pollution.

Image courtesy of MyHydro

Learn more about Natel’s new generation 1.5 Megawatt Restoration Hydro Turbine (RHT):

  • High performance:> 90% hydraulic efficiency
  • Compact: The compact, cavitation-free design of the RHT reduces excavation requirements and saves up to 40% on civil works compared to conventional low-head turbines.
  • Safe for Fish: The RHT is safe for fish, allowing 99% of the fish to pass through the turbine safely, reducing the need for expensive and complex fine fish screens and thus projecting CAPEX costs and OPEX.
  • Flexibility: The RHT is available in a wide variety of well-known and practical form factors including axial pit and bulbous turbines, radial / open channel intake turbines, Saxo / z type turbines to offer greater flexibility for greenfield projects and the modernization of existing water infrastructure (i.e. non-fed dams, irrigation spillways, etc.)
  • Modular and Scalable: Most conventional turbines use custom, site-specific, and bespoke designs that increase turbine unit costs and slow manufacturing, development, and construction times. Natel’s modular turbines reduce the costs of manufacturing and designing turbines by exploiting economies of scale. The same economies of scale that reduce manufacturing costs can also be extended to major civil design components to help reduce civil design and engineering costs when deployed across multiple sites, thereby reducing overall costs of the plant. project and increasing scalability.

MyHydro’s distributed hydroelectric plants can be built in about a year after all project approvals and licenses have been granted. As part of its development process, the MyHydro analysis incorporates a historical view of river flows over 50 years, as well as advice from local communities to ensure that its plants will produce enough electricity to meet the expectations of the Buyer.

MyHydro is launching in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2022 as its first market. The DRC was chosen because of its excellent hydrology and the poor condition and lack of capacity of its power system. MyHydro is working with the DRC Rural Electrification Agency to expand access to electricity in the country. There are many rivers in Africa that have good flow rates in places like Guinea, Angola, Uganda, South Africa, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe and many more.

As the world rushes to decarbonize, mini and micro hydropower plants could help replace struggling small thermal power plants that are now near the end of their lifecycle. One of the main challenges in this area is the fact that some electric utilities are in default, which puts PPIs in serious financial difficulty. Other obstacles in the way include currency disputes, such as the recent currency conflict between the power company and an independent power producer in Zimbabwe.

There could be another attractive market, however, targeting private buyers such as data centers and blue chip companies looking to increase the penetration of renewable energy sources into their operations. Some of these companies, like Amazon, are already integrating off-site solar power plants. Amazon recently installed a 10 MW solar power plant in the Northern Cape of South Africa. MyHydro’s solutions, using modular 1.5MW turbines that are easily scalable up to 10MW and above, could also now be an option for these types of buyers.

Images courtesy of MyHydro

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