Title: Small Hydropower
Water is the condition of all forms of
life on our planet. It has accompanied us from the beginning of
times, ensuring heavy crops and
survival. It is one of the oldest sources of renewable energy. Mankind
learnt over the centuries how to draw more and more benefits from
water. Thus, water is currently one of the best-managed sources of
and has a considerable input in the global energy production.
When it comes to the quantity of the possessed water, Poland is, unfortunately,
neither a potentate on the European nor the World scale.
Statistically, for each European citizen fall about 4,560 square
meters of surface waters. In Poland it is only 1580 meters.
Thus, in this
respect we may be compared to Egypt, which is considered to be a
There are two major rivers in Poland – Wisla and Odra, which
constitute two-thirds of the water-power resources. One third of the
hydropower potential comes from small rivers, rivulets and streams.
They have been utilized for a long time.
All water resources enable us to produce about 11 thousand GWh
per year. There are 12 big hydropower plants of the power of
Construction of such plants is very expensive and has a considerable
the environment and water nature. Development plans for our country
do not cover any major investments in this field, which is justified
by financial and environmental reasons.
However, there is space and wide possibility for the development
of small and mini hydropower plants.
There were over 6500 hydropower plants in the interwar period.
They were mainly mills, corn and flour mills. In the following
almost all of them were closed or got into ruin. Only 650 of
and after renovation and repair gave a base to most of the currently
operating small hydropower plants.
According to the statistical data, around 600 of them are in
operation and have a power of 200 MW installed in them, which
annual production of approximately 1200 GWh. It constitutes less
half of the big hydropower plants’ production. Small hydropower plants
employ about 15000 people.
128 of these plants are in the hands of professional power engineering.
The rest are private establishments.
Small hydropower plants have numerous advantages. Here are the most
- they produce clean renewable electric energy
- they are scattered all over the country, which protects them against
disasters and terrorist attacks (as separate enterprises their value
in terms of attack objects is smaller)
- failure of a particular hydropower plant causes no hazard to the
whole system as it is considered to be only one plant with a little
share in the whole network that stops working
- majority of them uses small storage reservoirs, which, due to their
size, exert a positive influence on the local water conditions and
on the general water retention
- they are basis for numerous recreation and tourist undertakings,
thus providing workplaces for many people
Generally, small hydropower plants may be divided into two types:
- plants using small amount of water at its big slope. They are water-power
plants situated on brooks and mountain streams
- plants using bigger flow of water at its small slope. Such enterprises
are situated in lowlands, where rivers are slow/calm and have a small
Each of these hydropower plants uses different type of turbines adjusted
to the slope and extent of the flow.
Many examples may be given here. These are streams where few of such
plants operate on few kilometers, e.g. Olczyski Brook in Zakopane,
where 5 of such plants are located. Similarly, Lomniczka Brook in Karpacz,
where also few plants are in operation.
It needs to be mentioned that land reclamation works following
the flood in the river basin of Odra cover not only repairs
of the embankment
but also construction of few storage reservoirs in tributaries of
Odra. A small hydropower plant is constructed on each of them.
These kinds of purposeful actions will enable not only to increase
the participation of the water energy in the total national energy
balance, but also increase water retention, which amounts in Poland
only up to 7-8%. It is merely a half of what is retained in other
European countries on the average. Taking into account that
when it comes to
water resources on our continent Poland is on one of the last countries
on the list, retention and appropriate utilization of our surface
water amounts into a major problem for the coming years.
Construction of a hydropower plant is relatively expensive. Its cost
is three to four times as much as the cost of a comparable power
plant operating on coal. However, taking the outer costs into consideration,
such as environmental pollution with the emission of harmful gases
and dust, necessity of their desulfurization and dedusting, we realize
that expenditures on both ways of energy production are comparable.
It must be pointed that hydropower plants outlive those operating
coal. Hydropower plants dating back some 80 years are running without
Meanwhile, a big number of small and medium storage reservoirs
scattered all over the country helps to stabilize the level
of ground waters
and regulates quantity of water in rivers and brooks which they are
working on. It is particularly useful in the periods of sudden water
rises caused by excessive precipitation. A considerable part of the
so called flood wave is then taken by numerous small and medium storage
reservoirs, which enables to limit disastrous effects of floods.
Managed storage reservoirs connected with hydropower plants, being
places of recreation, stimulate development of the tourist and recreation
infrastructure, which creates workplaces for thousands of people.
One more argument for hydropower plants is the possibility of a beneficial
sale of the produced energy. There are country councils in Poland,
which have invested in such plants and currently obtain substantial
profits from selling electric power to professional power networks.
It is possible due to the fact that price of the clean hydropower
has a statutory higher price than energy produced in traditional
oil or gas power plants.
It needs to be mentioned that all investments connected with hydropower
plants may obtain aid from the European funds and national environment
protection funds, which may finance up to 80% of expenditures.