Hydropower has advantages over other technologies as a source of energy, but widespread proliferation of micro hydropower seems to be blocked by a) the initial up-front installation costs, and b) the relatively weak supply chain in developing countries.
I'm trying to develop a satellite-based tool with which to survey one river valley after another for sites where any standardised "hydro kit" would be viable. Rather than design a bespoke scheme around a particular site, we are starting our prospecting activities with the turbine - it doesn't matter which one, or whose, so long as it suits the needs of the rural communities who lack the kind of power supply that will be big enough to boost local economic activity, but small enough to be both affordable and suitable to communities where there are few if any electrical appliances (washing machines, fridges etc). Once the kit has been selected, the software tool we are creating takes those operating parameters (e.g. "my turbine needs 200 litres per second and a head of 3m) and looks for places where the river provides a suitable site... and then another site, and then another... until we have a long list of sites where an unmodified hydro kit could be viable. Scale is important not just to the economies of scale a manufacturer needs to bring down the price of his product, but also to the financiers who invest in renewable energy technologies in the developing world but who don't normally get out of bed for less than $10m (isolated individual micro hydropower project just aren't interesting enough for them, but a portfolio of identical installations?)
So what is stopping the development of off-grid micro hydro?
Fear of losing revenue when the off-grid eventually becomes grid connected?
Lack of skills in equipment manufacture and maintenance at the localised level?
Poor co-ordination of "productive users" in rural communities to merit a 10kW-25kW installation?
High capex at the installation stage?
All feedback would be welcome