300 kW in the Andes

For centuries philosophers have tried to define happiness. Perhaps they should listen to a villager from the eastern slope of the Andes in Gorgor talking about the difference that micro-hydro electricity plants have made to life. “When we didn’t have electricity, everywhere was silent and monotonous. Then, when light came to our village, the children were able to do recreational activities. It changed our way of life. Now there’s much more happiness.”

The plants were a response to the isolation of the villagers. 90% of them were without a connection to the electricity grid. Dirty and inefficient kerosene and diesel lamps were the norm. People were leaving for the city.

Yet the area is rich in rivers and streams, which can be harnessed for hydro-electricity. Levek Turbine design install and commission a 300 kW power plant for three small communities in 1998. The model of local involvement was pivotal. Local communities were involved at all stages, contributing labor and setting up management for operation and maintenance, which is provided by local technicians.

The benefits are economic and human. Businesses have sprung up while the quality of life has improved both in the home and in the community as regular electricity means better education and health care. The Peruvian government now has a ten-year plan to expand such projects.