Water Power


    Large scale hydroelectric power has been used worldwide for a long time to generate huge amounts of power from water stored behind massive dams.  Small scale hydropower has been used for hundreds of years for manufacturing, including milling grain, sawing logs and manufacturing cloth.  However, it can also be used without a dam to generate electricity for home scale remote power systems.  These so-called micro-hydro installations can be a very good complement to a solar power system, as they produce electricity 24 hours a day.

Waterwheels--It's important to differentiate between water wheels and water turbines.  A water wheel is more akin the antique version we are all familiar with--a massive wooden wheel that slowly turns as the creek pours down over it.  Water wheels spin slowly, but with lots of torque. They are also surprisingly efficient! One very good place to go for waterwheel information, kits and photos is The Waterwheel Factory.

Scotty's Banki Turbine hydro plant
NEW 6/21/2004 ---

Scotty's new homebrew hydro plant, using a Banki Turbine design built from scratch. The generator is a homebuilt permanent magnet alternator, very similar to our Brake disc alternators. In a Banki design, the water hits the vanes twice, once upon entrance and then again upon exit. There is only about 3 feet of head available at the site, and the system is producing about 2 amps at 12VDC, fed by a 4 inch pipe. Check out the page about it HERE.

Water Wheel

A while back, one of our neighbors constructed a water wheel generator using a squirrel cage fan, belt, pulley and surplus tape drive motor that produced a steady 1-2 amps of power, 24 hours a day.  He used a natural dam (a log that fell across the creek years ago) to get the fall and to mount the generator on. Click here for more information on this clever water wheel.

Some General Micro Hydro Power Information

NOTE -- as you can see from the photos and web pages linked to above, we don't have much of a hydro power resource here. The crick is very small, often dries up in the summer, and freezes nearly solid in the winter. So we are not the best place to direct your hydro power questions to, we have hardly any hydro experience. There are some great sites listed in our Hydro Power Links section.

Turbines--All of the commercial micro hydro generators available today use a small turbine connected to an electrical generator or alternator. Water is collected in an intake pipe upstream, travels down to the turbine in plastic pipe, and  is forced through one or more nozzles by its own gravity pressure.  No dam is needed; systems without a dam are called "run of river" systems.  Power is generated by a generator or alternator directly connected to the turbine wheel (no gears or pulleys needed).  All of the factors below must be calculated correctly for your micro-hydro equipment to make power most efficiently.  All commercial micro-hydro setups are custom-made by the manufacturer for your specific application.  For proper operation, you must supply the manufacturer with specific data about your site, most importantly the vertical drop in feet (called "head"), the amount of water flow available during different seasons in gallons per minute, and the length of pipeline required to get a sufficient head.




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This page last updated 6/21/2004