Get Started with Microhydro Power
After you’ve done your load analysis and know how many kilowatt-hours you want to generate, a microhydro system site survey primarily focuses on four measurements:
For most people, a combination of motives—environmental, independence, reliability, and cost—make hydro-electric systems attractive. The “bottom line” may end up being what the actual cost per kWh is. To arrive at this, you’ll need a complete design along with construction bids or estimates. If it’s a grid-connected system you’re after, you’ll also need to know what your local utility policies are for renewable energy systems, and at what amount you will be credited or paid. You’ll also need to know if any incentives (utility or government) exist. Often, microhydro system incentives are less than those for solar energy systems, and sometimes non-existent. Available incentives, though, may be generous because of hydro’s 24-hour generation capability. Once you have these figures, you’ll need to predict how many years your system will operate and the annual maintenance costs, and then you’ll be able to calculate the cost per kWh.
Throughout your design, consider strategies to get the most out of your precious flowing water resource. Properly sizing the pipe will get the most energy to your turbine, minimizing friction loss. Choosing the right turbine and runner for the job will maximize production for your stream’s specific head and flow. And sizing the wire correctly will keep the system safe, and keep you from losing energy in the transmission of your hydro-electricity.
Get an education about common hydro myths, and avoid scams or schemes that promise more than they deliver. Lean on professionals and others with experience in the field to discover what has worked well to produce hydro-electricity. If you do your homework, and apply what you learn with care, hydro-electricity can provide low-cost, clean energy for many years.