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  1. #1
    Platinum Member wasabi's Avatar
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    Cullowhee Mountain, NC
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    PT2445 and PT1850

    Default small scale hydroelectric power

    With the east coast drought now being replaced by deluges, I thought this might be a timely topic. [img]/w3tcompact/icons/laugh.gif[/img]

    Seriously, has anyone here actually done this? We have decent year-round stream flow (estimated average with a weir at 200 gpm), and significant vertical fall (can easily capture 200 ft), on our mountain property. It would seem that borrowing the water to produce electricity, then returning to stream, creates no foul. The toughest part (aside from fairly gnarly electronics) would seem to be creating small dams, placing equipment and trenching for pipes and wire. Good news is that all that work requires seat time. [img]/w3tcompact/icons/wink.gif[/img][img]/w3tcompact/icons/grin.gif[/img]

    I've done web searches and read up on specifications and recommendations. Up front costs don't seem unrealistic, nor does the payback period, but before tackling, I'd like to talk with others who have actually done this.

  2. #2
    Silver Member
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    Northern Michigan
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    Ford/NH 1715

    Default Re: small scale hydroelectric power

    Never done anything like that so can't help you there. But I have heard of people selling their excess power to the hydro supplier. Requires getting them involved for necessary switches and safety issues. Something you may want to consider.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Sep 2001
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    New Hampshire
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    TC40D

    Default Re: small scale hydroelectric power

    Can't help with the small hydro, though I'd give my left arm for the setup!

    I do have, up and running, a pair of SW4024's, with a large battery bank, in
    a UPS configuration, and, since you'll need something in the way of an
    inverter, I can offer comments there, if desired.

  4. #4
    Veteran Member Slamfire's Avatar
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    Coker Creek, TN
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    Mitsubishi D 1800

    Default Re: small scale hydroelectric power

    I did a survey for a fellow once in a mountainous area. He had a thousand feet of head, and a mile to transport the water. He needed a minimum of 6" pipe to make himself energy independant. Have you priced 6" pipe by the mile? Then you'll need a method to keep from collapsing the pipe when you start the unit, and a governor that will supply 60 cycle power. If you don't use a 3 phase generator and a transformer to smooth out the sine wave you'll have a lot of 3rd harmonics.

  5. #5

    Join Date
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    South Central Oklahoma
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    Kubota Grand L4610HSTC

    Default Re: small scale hydroelectric power

    There is a magazine devoted to alternative energy sources (wind, sun, and water). They have well informed articles on home sized hydroelectric plants for folks living off grid as well as wanting to sell poer and have a backup to the grid. They have multiple advertizers selling hydroelectric power generators that are well proven and time tested.

    The magazine is "Home Power" and it is a great boon to anyone wanting good information on sun, wind, and water power. Although they have interesting articles on solar-electric installations, that is mostly a "green" minded "fashion statement" as there is virtually never a compelling economic rationale to individual PV (photo-voltaic) installations with the exception of folks so far off grid that the the wire and poles would be prohibitive.

    On the other hand, if you have the flow rate available enough of the time and a sufficient head, you can get a payback that makes a small scale hydroelectric plant an investment opportunity rather than an expense. If you are serious about this project, do yourself a giant favor and get the available back issues (nominal charge compared to what you get) and glean the hydro-info.

    I am seriously envious of your hydro resource. I'm going to be sharpening my pencil and taking a look at wind generation here. Without subsidy from either enlightened (no pun intended, REALLY!) utilities or the Government, it is too close to call with just a SWAG at my location. In civilization, many utilities will encourage energy conservation as it reduces their need to invest in generation capacity. Some electric companies put up lots of barriers to the home power generator having a grid intertie and being able to 1. watch your electric meter spin backwards, or 2. have them owy you. A reasonable compromise is just being able to reduce your monthly bill even if they won't pay you for your excess generation. The real "green" freaks, do guerilla installations and pump their power into the grid even though they don't get paid for it because "it makes them feel good."

    More directly to the point: Read "Home Power" and avoid the pitfall of wasting a lot of time and money on a well intentioned but underengineered home built system. There have been articles on successful home built projects. Might as well stand on the shoulders of success and not totally reinvent the wheel.

    Best of luck to you and did I mention that I was E_N_V_I_O_U_S????????????

    Patrick

  6. #6
    Platinum Member wasabi's Avatar
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    Default Re: small scale hydroelectric power

    patrickg,

    You mean "green" with envy, right? [img]/w3tcompact/icons/laugh.gif[/img] Thanks for your perspective and tip. I remember seeing that mag, but forgot all about it. I'll do as you suggest. I've read a bunch of websites, articles and tech manuals and absolutely concur with your reasoning that there is no point in reinventing the wheel. There is some great stuff out there!

    My thoughts and research on this started with what I suspect is classicly uninformed reasoning (I'll just build a waterwheel, connect it to a stock ford alternator, run some heavy cable and dump the excess into resistance heat...let's see now, overshot or undershot...[img]/w3tcompact/icons/tongue.gif[/img]). I soon discovered significant technological and equipment advances have been made since I last looked at this subject in the early 70's.

    My research and questioning now centers around whether it makes sense to store, resell or dump the excess power. I'm favoring the "kiss" approach, which is to dump, rather than hassle with the utility and cost of grid intertie, but, being both philosophically against waste and investment minded, I'm also running the numbers for the linkage to backspin the meter, a concept I like a lot! [img]/w3tcompact/icons/grin.gif[/img] I'd likely do that before messing with batteries, storage and such.

    I'm seeking a balance between making practical use of this fabulous natural source of energy (as you probably know, nothing else even comes close, efficiency wise) and a "rational" investment. (I'm not too swayed by zeal for a state of the art system, but confess both a fondness for technical challenges and a love for tinkering).

    Although I neither claim to be, nor have quarrel with adamant tree huggers, my goal here is not really "fashion statement" related. I just like the notion of building a system that repays for itself in a reasonable period and then provides essentially "free" power thereafter. (I would also rather cut our trees, dry the lumber and build from materials from the land as well as have our own water system.....

    I like to think of such forays as a combination of being reasonably self-sufficient, independent minded and my German frugality part showing....rather than accepting that I'm probably just stubborn, a tad crazy and essentially a cheapskate! [img]/w3tcompact/icons/hmm.gif[/img][img]/w3tcompact/icons/crazy.gif[/img][img]/w3tcompact/icons/sad.gif[/img]

  7. #7
    Epic Contributor MossRoad's Avatar
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    South Bend, Indiana (near)
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    Power Trac PT425 2001 Model Year

    Default Re: small scale hydroelectric power

    Sounds with that kind of flow and head you could get significant power from a turbine. You could get more GPM if you made a small pond that would dump when full.

    Several states allow you to run the meter backwards. The power company doesn't have to buy any power from you. But, if at the end of the month, the meter is less than the last month, you owe nothing.

    I've read alot, but can't do it on our propeerty. Plenty of GPM, but only a few inches in drop. Not practical for me.

  8. #8
    Veteran Member Slamfire's Avatar
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    Coker Creek, TN
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    Mitsubishi D 1800

    Default Re: small scale hydroelectric power

    The danger with running the meter backwards without the utility's required relay scheme is someday you'll electrocute a lineman.

  9. #9
    Platinum Member wasabi's Avatar
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    Cullowhee Mountain, NC
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    PT2445 and PT1850

    Default Re: small scale hydroelectric power

    <font color=red> The danger with running the meter backwards without the utility's required relay scheme is....</font color=red>

    .....wouldn't go there, even on a bet!! (balls and bears, but no guerillas on our place)

  10. #10

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    Kubota Grand L4610HSTC

    Default Re: small scale hydroelectric power

    wasabi, I still can't think of a better way to get up to speed on practical home size hydroelectric units than back issues of "Home Power" They have them in group form, i.e. multiple issues in one cover. I don't recall for sure but they may have them on CD, they were selling CD's for something... Almost turnkey store bought units with your water numbers are good investments and certainly much more practical than a standard automotive alternator. Still it isn't a one time installation and then gravy forever. Like everthing mechanical, they require maint and repairs. There have been some wonderful writeups on successful homebrew units.

    If you are on the grid, I recommend against buying any/many batteries. Batteries are a costly, high maint option, best avoided if able. If you buy the right equipment you can use the grid as a near perfect storage battery. Real batteries will cost you maybe 50% in losses. The grid will accept your power say at 3 AM when you don't need it and give it back at 6 PM when you do, essentially loss free. Some utilities will not let you have a negative monthly bill and may have a minimum fee. Even with those you can run your meter backwards part of the time but just not get credit for excess generation which is not likely a concern as most households would use considerably more than they would generate over a monthly billing cycle. Some places will buy it from you wholesale and sell it back to you at retail, pretty lousy. This leads to what you will learn is called guerilla installations. Perfecly sound and safe from an engineering standpoint due to good quality off the shelf components but not in compliance with utility co requirements.

    I remain quite envious of you as I have had to abandon my hopes for a hydro unit. Still considering wind while waiting for cold fusion.

    Patrick


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