The technology for using falling water to create hydroelectricity has existed for more than a century. The evolution of the modern hydropower turbine began in the mid-1700s, when the French hydraulic and military engineer, Bernard Forest de Bélidor, wrote Architecture Hydraulique. In this four-volume work, he described using a vertical-axis versus a horizontal-axis machine.

A century later, in 1882, when the electric generator was coupled to the turbine, the world’s first hydroelectric plant opened in the U.S. Today, hydropower plants combine cutting-edge technology with natural resources to serve the needs of many different communities. From small to extra-large, these facilities allow remote or inaccessible areas the power resources that have long eluded them, stalling progress and slowing development. The examples below illustrate how hydropower can be tailored to local needs with local resources.

Bujagali (Uganda)

The Bujagali hydropower plant is the first large-scale privately financed hydro in Africa. A 250 MW facility on the Victoria Nile River, it began operations in late 2012, providing an alternative to more expensive thermal power sources. The facility uses the power of falling water from a 30 meter high earth-filled dam to generate electricity.

Lake Mainit (The Philippines)

The $62.5 million, 25 MW Lake Mainit hydropower plant, which is scheduled for completion by 2015, will use Lake Mainit as a natural reservoir to generate electricity. The project will reduce the magnitude and frequency of seasonal flooding during periods of rainfall. Flooding in Lake Mainit, the fourth-largest lake in the country, affects over 60,000 hectares of commer-cial, industrial, and agricultural land.

Ngayak III (Uganda)

Nyagak III is a 4.4 MW mini hydro scheme in the West Nile Region of Uganda. The Uganda Electricity Generation Company has hired IFC to serve as transaction advisor to assist in identifying a strategic partner to develop the project. Six bidders have been prequalified and the tender process is ongoing.

Nam Theun 2 (Lao PDR)

NT2, the largest and most complex hydropower project in Lao PDR, supplies 75 MW of electricity for domestic use and exports 1,000 MW of power to Thailand.

Ashta (Albania)

The Ashta hydropower plant, with an installed capacity close to 50 MW, is the first major hydropower plant built in Albania in 30 years. Its success is based on innovative StrafloMatrix™ technology—a new concept for developing hydropower at low-head sites where dams, weirs, or canals already exist. Projects that may not be financially viable, based on conventional turbines and generators, may now be developed using this method. This technology has many advantages over conventional plants, including low investment cost, easy and inexpensive maintenance, and shorter construction periods.