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A small hydro electricity station



ROMA – The small station, created by a former Lerotholi Polytechnic engineering student, generates enough electricity to power electronics such as computers and laptops.

It can also charge batteries for energy storage.

“It is a small machine, a demonstration that we have the capacity to create our own electricity using our own machines in Lesotho,” said Ketso Tsitsinyane, a former Mechanical Engineering student at the Lerotholi Polytechnic, otherwise known as Fokothi.

“I spent two days in an open day at the Lerotholi Polytechnic, demonstrating that the machine was, indeed, producing electricity,” he said.

When Tsitsinyane was a student, he went for internship at the ’Muela Hydro-Power station.

It has been said that the station generates nearly half of the electricity we use in Lesotho.

But his interests went way beyond the assigned duties while he was there.

“I got interested in the whole power generation system and how it worked.”

This interest got to the point where he started using a drawing software to develop 3D pictures of the plant.

As he immersed himself in the drawings, he had to do a lot of research to understand the whole electricity generation system and how it worked.

That ensured his drawings got deeper.

“If you go through these drawings, you might have a better appreciation of the ’Muela Hydropower Station than if you actually went there physically,” he said.

“That’s because my 3D drawings pick up things that you wouldn’t even know existed in that station.”

As the drawings kept piling, and knowledge alongside it, an idea came.

“I could make this thing,” he told himself.

There and then, was the beginning of a long interesting journey that goes on to demonstrate the potential Lesotho has because of its bold and innovative youths.

Before we describe the designs he developed to arrive to this mini-station, you may want to know a thing or two about how electricity is generated from moving water.

Moving water has energy.

Otherwise it wouldn’t be moving.

Because it has energy, it is ready to give it away.

As you learned in primary school, energy cannot be created but it can change forms.

In the case of hydropower, which is power or electricity generated from moving water, the energy that makes the water move (kinetic energy), is changed to electricity (electrical energy).

The moving water has enough energy to spin a turbine.


A turbine is a wheel attached to vanes (maphephe) that rotates as the water pushes the vanes.

As water pushes the wheels and the wheels rotate, electricity comes up.

This “miracle” was discovered way back in 1832 by a fellow named Michael Faraday.

Faraday realised that if you were to let a moving magnet pass close to a wire, electricity would be generated in the wire.

That discovery changed the world because electricity is the reason you are reading this sentence today.

Electricity is generated because in the turbine, the wires are passing through a magnetic field created by rotating magnets and that action creates electricity.

The magnetic field is the force created by the magnet.

Put simply, that force makes magnets to attract metals or each other, or even repel.

You got the point about how turbines generate electricity—Right?

Something like that.

“I started with one turbine design and ended up with another,” Tsitsinyane said.

The first design was based on what is known in the field as Francis turbine.

It was not good.

“It was going to be more expensive than alternative designs,” he observed.

“To make it, I needed plenty of specialised machinery which would be difficult to get access to, if at all.”

Also, testing the station with the Francis design would be a challenge.

That is because he would need a lot of water to get it done.

When he realised that the Francis approach was sure to fail, he went back to the drawing board.

This time around he explored a simpler, lower-cost method.

He took up the Pelton Wheel design.

This one is simpler, it does not need a lot of water to drive it.

In fact, what matters is the speed of the water (volumetric flow rate), not (necessarily) the amount (volume) of water.

“Also, I would make this one using simple tools I could get off the shelves.”

That meant he could finance this project out of nothing.

So he made the design and started implementing it over a period of one year.

Keep in mind that Tsitsinyane started working on this machine immediately after graduation.

He had no money and he happened to be born in a country where funding for innovation is not even an idea.

“That’s why it took me so long, I had to keep improving on little things as I got money.”

With persistence, he reached the finishing line and demonstrated that the machine worked.

Own Correspondent

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