Japanese multinational imaging and electronics company Ricoh has launched a pico-hydro generation system that can be used with factory drainage systems and irrigation canals. Pico-hydro systems are all hydropower systems with a capacity of less than 5kW and are commonly used as a cheap and easy-to-deploy source of power in the world’s most inaccessible places.
“The system can also be used in combination with photovoltaics and batteries to ensure stable power supply, ” a spokesperson from the company told pv magazine. “Depending on the amount of electricity generated, it can be used for IoT devices such as sensors, lighting devices, and charging systems. A 1kW hydroelectric power generator is under development and is the output we are aiming for in the future, currently, it is a few watts or a few dozen watts.”
Called 3D-Pico Hydro Generator System, the new product will be initially sold in the Japanese market. “Service validation will begin in Japan, and the system will gradually be offered globally to markets where it is needed,” the spokesperson further explained.
According to the manufacturer, the system is made with 3D-printed sustainable materials based on recycled plastics and is able to generate electricity even with a small stream of water.
It was tested at the company's Numazu Plant. “In our demonstration experiment using factory wastewater from the Ricoh Numazu Plant, we confirmed the possibility of lighting a lamp and using it as a power source for a security camera for nine months,” the company said. “We are also considering using it as a power source for disaster prevention in combination with battery storage.”
“Ricoh is also planning to improve the system so that it can also be used in microgrids,” the company's spokesperson concluded.
There are many factors that determine the feasibility of a mini-hydropower project. These include the amount of power available from the water flow, the turbine type, the capacity of electrical loads to be supplied, and the initial and operating costs.
During the past decades, Pico-hydropower systems have been used with success in countries such as Nepal, Vietnam, Laos and Peru, as a way to provide electricity to rural locations.
*The article was updated on March 31 to specify that 1kW is the capacity Ricoh is aiming to reach for the system in the future, and not its current capacity, as we previously reported.
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