As with all machines, hydropower systems require maintenance. Bearings must be checked occasionally and lubricated as necessary. Intake systems must be cleared of debris that might hinder water flow. When there are seasonal changes in flow, it may be necessary to change nozzle or gate settings. In some cases, ice at intakes can be a problem. You may need to check that the pipeline is free of damage and supporting anchors are secure. Other maintenance includes replacing generator bearings and periodically checking electrical connections for corrosion.
It’s good practice to shut down your hydro system at least once a year to inspect the runner and other hydraulic components for wear. For battery-based systems, you need to care for your batteries, ensuring that they are sized correctly to start with, and that they are fully charged most of the time to get the best life from them. Top up with distilled water when needed.
Properly maintained, a quality hydro system will run reliably for many years.
Michael Lawley, director and engineer at EcoInnovation in New Plymouth, New Zealand, has a degree in mechanical engineering and has lived off-grid for the last 16 years. EcoInnovation manufactures hydro turbines using renewable energy. www.powerspout.com
David Seymour, president and CEO of Asian Phoenix Resources in Victoria, BC, Canada, is a semi-retired mineral exploration geologist who, while working in Vietnam, recognized the positive impact that individual low-head microhydro turbines had on the residents of remote settlements. For 14 years, he has been supplying PowerPal microhydro products to more than 80 countries. www.powerpal.com
Hugh Piggott, owner of Scoraig Wind Electric in Scoraig, Scotland, lives off-grid in windy northwest Scotland and specializes in homebuilt wind turbines. He would specialize in hydro if he lived in a suitable location, and has installed a number of small off-grid hydro systems ranging from 20 to 7,000 watts. www.scoraigwind.com
Jerry Ostermeier, owner/engineer at Alternative Power & Machine in Grants Pass, Oregon, has been focusing on hydro and off-grid applications in the renewable energy business for 32 years. www.apmhydro.com
Mike New, vice president of Canyon Hydro in Deming, Washington, is a longtime hydro enthusiast who wrote the Guide to Hydropower and developed the public information site www.whyhydropower.com. www.canyonhydro.com
Christopher Freitas, an electrical engineer with WiFu Energy in Big Lake, Washington, is a hydro system owner and renewable energy engineer who has worked in the RE industry since 1986. Recently, he’s focused on projects in the developing world, including Haiti, South Sudan, and Pakistan. www.sunepi.org
Peter Talbot, owner of SunWater Power Systems in British Columbia, Canada, made his first hydro generator at age 8, and still enjoys the simple concept of harnessing flowing water to do useful work. To him, it’s not a job; it’s a passion. www.homepower.ca
Scott Davis, president of Friends of Renewable Energy BC in Victoria, BC, Canada, is a renewable energy project developer and the author of Serious Microhydro: Water Power Solutions from the Experts and Microhydro: Clean Power from Water.
Joseph Hartvigsen, owner of Hartvigsen-Hydro in Kaysville, Utah, has been building water turbines for a dozen years. While hydropower has always been a fascination, his direct involvement arose out of necessity to provide power on the family’s mountainous wheat farm in Idaho. www.h-hydro.com
Denis Ledbetter, owner of Lo Power Engineering/Harris Hydro in Redway, California, divides his time between his family’s homestead in the coastal mountains of northern California and using RE to manufacture the Harris microhydro turbine.
Robert K. Weir, president of Hydroscreen in Denver, Colorado, is a registered professional engineer with 43 years experience in diversion and screen engineering. He works directly with owners and engineers to design functional, cost-effective screening applications. www.hydroscreen.com
Derik Veenhuis, owner of Hydro Induction Power in Redway, California, has been working in renewable energy and building hydro turbines since 1980, developing his own line of low- and high-voltage turbines. www.hipowerhydro.com