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Micro Hydro


If your site has a source of running water, you simply must investigate its potential as a source of electricity.

Our experience with micro hydro systems has demonstrated that water power will produce between 10 and 100 times more power than PV or wind for the same capital investment. One should not consider other options unless there is simply no stream available within two kilometers.

Since water flows day and night, a micro hydro system requires far less battery storage than other technologies. Even if the stream is far away, it may still be viable.

Seasonal streams offer great performance when a hybrid water and solar system is designed. When your power requirements are the highest, in the winter, the water is usually flowing the fastest. Solar modules are most efficient when there is the most sun in the summer.

Electricity is produced from the energy in water flowing from a high level to a lower level. This change in elevation is called head and supplies the pressure, which drives the turbine. Flow is the other factor contributing to power production. It is usually limited by the size of the creek.

The amount of electricity produced is directly related to the head and flow. If the head or flow is increased the power output increases proportionally. Many micro hydro systems can utilize the existing pipe used by a gravity fed water system. A couple of sprinklers on a two-inch pipe are the equivalent of many kilowatt-hours per month of micro hydro electricity. Site considerations Many factors work together to make a successful micro hydro site.

In order to have optimal performance your equipment must neither be too big nor too small. A turbine can be up to a couple of kilometers away from where the power is being used and still be cost effective. It is far cheaper to run wire lines than it is to extend the pipe length.

Properly sized transmission lines and high voltage generators can deliver significant amounts of power a long ways away with acceptable losses and in a cost effective fashion.

A large inverter will deliver remarkable service from a small battery based system and save a lot of plumbing and water handling. On the other hand merely going a little higher up the mountain or using larger pipes can produce enough extra power to provide space heating and eliminate batteries altogether by generating AC directly.

If your site permits, you can have a large AC turbine with all the functionality of a 120/240 VAC fossil-fuel generator running 24 hours per day, but without the noise, smell, pollution and ongoing fuel and maintenance costs. While more expensive than a battery charging system, continuous outputs of 3 kW or more will heat a home for much of the year, in addition to supplying town-lifestyle appliance and lighting loads.

There is a lot more at stake, financially and otherwise in higher-powered systems. Please contact us for a reference to an AC micro hydro design professional.

Hydro systems are very site specific. If you are calling us to get a quote for your potential system, please have the head and flow information (next section) ready.

Measuring pressure
Water pressure is what produces power and must be measured carefully. Micro hydro sites range from a few pounds of pressure up to 150 PSI or more. The easiest way to measure pressure is to look at a pressure gauge located at the lowest point of an existing pipeline. When no water is moving in the pipe (static pressure) you can determine the vertical head by multiplying the pressure by 2.31.

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