Microhydro Systems: Advice From The Pros: Page 6 of 6

Beginner
Microhydro Intake
The right intake design will affect system performance greatly.
Microhydro Intake Site
Asian Phoenix’s Power Pal Low-Head Turbine
Asian Phoenix’s Power Pal low-head turbine in Honduras. At lower heads than this, things get tricky.
Altimeter
An altimeter is used to survey elevation. This measurement shows only 180 feet of head, but with a 12-inch pipe, this site will develop 75 kW.
Don Harris
Hydro guru Don Harris.
Measuring Head with the Bucket Method
The “bucket method” can be used to measure flow in small streams. Larger streams require an alternative measurement method.
Measuring Head with a Pressure Gauge
95 psi shows the static head of almost 220 feet of head.
Hugh Piggott, Scoraig Wind Electric
Hugh Piggott, Scoraig Wind Electric
David Seymore, Asian Phoenix Resources
David Seymore, Asian Phoenix Resources
Denis Ledbetter, Lo Power Engineering
Denis Ledbetter, Lo Power Engineering
Christopher Freitas, WiFu Energy
Christopher Freitas, WiFu Energy
Joseph Hartvigsen, Hartvigsen-Hydro
Joseph Hartvigsen, Hartvigsen-Hydro
Scott Davis, Friends of Renewable Energy BC
Scott Davis, Friends of Renewable Energy BC
Excavator Placing Pipe
An excavator lifting a 3,000-pound section of 8-inch steel onto a steep slope. The pipe was then pulled 500 feet up the hill using the excavator and a long steel cable through a pulley.
Microhydro Intake
Microhydro Intake Site
Asian Phoenix’s Power Pal Low-Head Turbine
Altimeter
Don Harris
Measuring Head with the Bucket Method
Measuring Head with a Pressure Gauge
Hugh Piggott, Scoraig Wind Electric
David Seymore, Asian Phoenix Resources
Denis Ledbetter, Lo Power Engineering
Christopher Freitas, WiFu Energy
Joseph Hartvigsen, Hartvigsen-Hydro
Scott Davis, Friends of Renewable Energy BC
Excavator Placing Pipe

Q: What kinds of maintenance do microhydro systems require?

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.

Access

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

Comments (3)

Heetel64's picture

If you are lucky enough to have a water source, study it.
An example would be a water source with a bend. Consider putting two independent wheels, smaller one on the outside ( faster flow ) and larger one on the inside with reducer gearing ( slower flow ). Should you find that the water supply is reduced, then design your system to allow for moving the larger wheel into the outer bend.
Never think that your water source will never change.

Frank Heller's picture

For remote sites where the owner has access to enough water to generate 1+ KW; it may be advisable to install microhydro should the distance to the nearest power line be 2 or more poles away. In Maine, a pole typically costs about $9,000.

On the other hand going off the grid is not for the faint hearted.

Frank Heller's picture

Don't dismiss the water wheel so quickly. A large slowly turning water wheel can provide enough torque to power a transmission so that a 300:1 or greater increase in RPM can be obtained. A large wheel with a small amount of water may do the same. Depends on whether it is in the current or powered by the weight of falling water.

There are also large volumes of water impounded in tidal pounds that can power a modern equivalent of the Roman tub turbine. In Maine we have 11' tides and there is an infrastructure of tidal ponds which ran approx. 2,000 tidal water mills.

OREC and others now use variations of the Gorlov turbine in swift underwater ocean currents. Tidal barrages using compression waves can also drive large turbines, i.e. SEABELL of Tokyo.

Show or Hide All Comments

Advertisement

X
You may login with either your assigned username or your e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.
Loading