Archimedes Screws Turbines (ASTs) are a new form of small hydroelectric powerplant that can be applied even in low head sites. ASTs offer a clean and renewable source of energy and are safer for wildlife and especially fish than other hydro generation options. As with other energy solutions, ASTs are not a global solution for all situations. However, in terms of sustainable development, ASTs can offer many economic, social, and environmental advantages that make them an important option for providing sustainable hydropower development. Archimedes screws can operate in low water heads (less than about 5 m) and a range of flow rates with practical efficiencies of 60% to 80% and can generate up to 355 kW of power. ASTs increase the number of suitable sites where it is possible to develop sustainable hydropower, including in undeveloped, hard to access regions and small communities. At many low head sites, ASTs may be more cost-effective, with lower installation and operating costs than alternative hydropower systems. An AST may also reduce the disturbance of natural sedimentation and erosion processes and have smaller impacts on fish and other fauna. ASTs can often be retrofit to existing unpowered dams or weirs, providing new hydropower capacity for very little marginal environmental impact. This review outlines the characteristics of ASTs, then discusses and analyzes how they could benefit the sustainability of hydropower development.
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