Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?

Options
hillbilly
hillbilly Solar Expert Posts: 334 ✭✭
I know this forum doesn't really have anything to do with Hydropower, but I figured this would be a good place to start. Any of you off the grid folks have a working hydro system, or any good/bad experiences with them? Anyone know of a good site for learning a bit more about the real details of micro hydro? I have the book by Scot Davis, which is pretty good, but VERY general and has little real details. I've been thinking about a possible hydro addition on our property for years, and now with the thought of replacing batteries in the not so distant future it could well have a very big impact on what size battery bank I would look at.

Any personal experiences would be particularly helpful and welcomed!

Comments

  • icarus
    icarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?

    I have always been envious of those that have falling water available. Even a small amount can produce a reliable, steady source of energy 24/7 with little regard for the weather. I have have often thought about how to harness wave energy for power but have never come up with a relatively simple way to do so.

    If you've got captive (able) falling water, not looking to it for energy harvest would be missing a golden chance.

    Icarus
  • niel
    niel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?

    i know of one person on the forum that has it for sure, but if he wishes to come forward with info on it it'll be his place to do so. now i can say that if you have the opportunity to do hydro that you should even if say for example you generate 100w as multiplying that out by 24hrs in a day equates to 2.4kwh. now work that backwards and see how much in solar pvs you'd need to do the same.
  • Fe-Wood
    Fe-Wood Solar Expert Posts: 96 ✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?

    Thats always been one of my dreams. To bad I live on top of a hill... Only falling water I get happens when it rains:cry:.... I'm hoping to help my cousin put one together. He has 1.5" pipe coming from a spring box with 200' of head. I wonder how much power he could generate???
  • icarus
    icarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?
    niel wrote: »
    i know of one person on the forum that has it for sure, but if he wishes to come forward with info on it it'll be his place to do so. now i can say that if you have the opportunity to do hydro that you should even if say for example you generate 100w as multiplying that out by 24hrs in a day equates to 2.4kwh. now work that backwards and see how much in solar pvs you'd need to do the same.

    Not only 24/7, but (for the most part) rain or shine, cloud or sun!

    Even if one lives at the top of the hill, power is easily pumped up the hill via the wires, unlike the water. Flowing water is a great resource!

    T
  • sawmill
    sawmill Solar Expert Posts: 93 ✭✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?

    I have a small micro-hydro system used with a 24 volt battery bank. I don't know if my situation would be of help to you since all hydro systems are different and semi-designed for the flow, head and distance the electricity is to be delivered.

    My little system is strictly a home brew design, based on a dual rotor Hugh Piggot wind generator. Wound for higher voltage because of the distance to the bank, 300 feet. I only have 9.5 psi or 22' of head and a flow of 80 gpm (+ -) which varies with season and rainfall.

    With my low head I use a Turgo wheel with four nozzels. During normal stream flow I get a constant 100 to 125 watts. During the dry season this will drop to 70 (+-) watts.

    If thinking about hydro it is essential to determine your flow and head before doing anything. Once you have these two figures a fairly accurate determination can be made for your potential site.

    The intake screen must be kept clean if not using the self cleaning type. The runner must stay full with no air in the system.

    Hope this helps a little!
  • hillbilly
    hillbilly Solar Expert Posts: 334 ✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?

    Sawmill that actually is helpful, and some of that is info I'd heard before. My site, or sites are almost polar opposites. Still working on getting more hard (accurate) numbers, but some rough measurements are:

    Site one,
    has a seasonal creek that really only runs maybe 3-4 months of the year and a bit intermitent at that. Still I think we have at least 100' of head over a 400' run of the creek, and flow is highly variable but I think that we would want to design for a range of 5-20gpm's.
    Site two,
    runs year round, and is MUCH larger in volume so I think we could easily capture 200-500gpm and not make a major dent in the natural flow of the creek. The two downsides of this creek are the low gradient (I figure it at maybe 5-6 feet of head, depending on the intake locale), and the physical distance (probably over 600' away from the house).

    I'm a bit more interested in the first site, since it is closer to the house and the intake would be uphill from us. I am most curious how well the turbines might deal with a potentially wide range of flows from dry to probably more than we really need to worry about. Do you ever have your creek get too low to power the turbine at all, and is this a problem in any way?
    thanks
  • icarus
    icarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?

    Interestingly, both scenarios have a fair bit of potential power. 100' of head at 10 gpm would be a ton of power albeit seasonally. By contrast 500 gmp at 5' of head is a bit as well. I personally would lean toward the year round.

    Once you have the flow and head figures, you can roughly estimate the potential power available, in kilowatts (kW), with the following formula:

    Gross Head x Flow x System Efficiency (in decimal equivalent) x C = Power (kW)

    C is a constant (the value is different in English and metric units).

    http://www.oregon.gov/ENERGY/RENEW/Hydro/Hydro_index.shtml

    100x10x.5x.085=42.5

    500x5x.5x.085=106.25
  • sawmill
    sawmill Solar Expert Posts: 93 ✭✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?

    To compensate for the seasonal flows, I change to different diameter nozzels in order to keep the runner full. Since the little stream nevers drys I am always able to produce some power.

    With your large stream but low head a banki type generator might be your choice. With this type of generator I don't believe that air in your runner would present the same problem that it does for Turgo or Pelton wheels.

    Like Icarus I would prefer the constant output if feasible.
  • waynefromnscanada
    waynefromnscanada Solar Expert Posts: 3,009 ✭✭✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?

    Well this is the second year I'm running my mini-micro hydro. Extremely lucky to have on my property a 200 year old dam across a smallish lake. It's only about 30 inches high, but can control a big volume of water. Was built by my great, great grandfather to supply his saw mill. Unfortunately the big drop in the stream from that lake happens after it leaves my property. However, with 200 feet of pipeline, I do get about 13 foot drop. Just to see what might be possible, I built a 12 inch cross-flow runner, and a nozzle to match, then ran a 4 inch pipe to try it out. Used a 24 volt PM alternator from an otherwise useless Hornet wind unit that I had tried out, belt drive from the turbine runner, and got 60 watts directly to the 12 volt batteries. Added a second parallel 4 inch pipeline, "Y"'d to one pipe at the turbine and the power went up to 80 watts. First problem, the alternator, right off the wind turbine, had no cooling fan. Nearly cooked the stater, melted insulation, burned off the twine holding the coils together, was smoking hot, loaded down way too much feeding the 12 volt system. Lucky a friend runs a motor repair shop, he re-varnished the stator, I added a fan, and it survived. Since the no load voltage was only 50VDC, I tried a TriStar MPPT controller. Perfect match. The revs went up on the alternator, the temp went down, the output voltage settled at 25 volts, and the MPPT provided the batteries with the required voltage, and of course higher amperage. Power went up to 125 watts, and with some tweaking, got it up to 140.
    My next change, come spring, will be to replace the double run of 4 inch pipe, with a single 6 inch. I've never really measured the water flow, rather by just playing around, made the nozzle to pass a bit less than the least flow I might get during extended dry periods when the lake would get low. Ran all last winter 24/7. This year I have many improvements and after all the storms, the lake is higher than I've ever seen it.
    One good thing - - last summer when we had a long dry spell, on sunny days, I'd shut the gate at the lake, saving water and allowing the solar to take over till evening. Of course there was always enough leakage to keep water in the brook.
    The final result as of now - - the hydro allows the batteries to hold their own for weeks at a time during dark stormy weather and the shortest days of the year, days when with solar only, I'd have to stop using it. Now the solar is just the icing on the cake, topping things up if needed, and allowing me to run heavy using tools without taking anything out of the batteries. Really the batteries are only used to provide start surge and run the pump for less than 2 minutes when needed, and the hydro quickly brings them back up to full.
    So what do I think? If you have ANY possibility of hydro, GO FOR IT!
    I'm truly blessed with a great gift, I know it and really appreciate it.
    That's over 3 KWH hydro per day and runs my whole house! Far better results than I ever expected, given what I had to work with.
    Hope this gives you some ideas.
    Peace and Happy New Year!
  • hillbilly
    hillbilly Solar Expert Posts: 334 ✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?

    Both certainly have the potential, I think I was mostly concerned with the cost and ease of installation/service. The second site is a long way down a steep hill, meaning a long expensive copper run, and a lot more work to set it up and maintain. I may be wrong here, but I was also thinking that overall dealing with less water might be more simple than dealing with very large volumes. We don't really need any more power in the summer months, so while I would like a bit more of a season than the one creek would offer I think it may be "just enough".

    Sawmill, what are the big issues as far as air getting into the runners? As this may be a very tough one for us on the smaller/steeper site due to the fluctuation in flows.
  • icarus
    icarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?

    Wayne,, I am so envious!

    Tony
  • keyturbocars
    keyturbocars Solar Expert Posts: 375 ✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?
    icarus wrote: »
    Wayne, I am so envious!

    Tony

    Yeah, makes me want to move somewhere with a stream! We've got a large creek down in the canyon where I live, but it's across the road and not on my property.

    Hydro power sounds really good!

    Edward
  • waynefromnscanada
    waynefromnscanada Solar Expert Posts: 3,009 ✭✭✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?
    icarus wrote: »
    Wayne,, I am so envious!
    Tony

    And I am so thankful for the great gift that luck and Nature have provided. In the beginning I never dreamed of getting such results, but am thankful every day.
    The biggest pain is keeping the leaves cleaned off the intake rack in the Fall, don't have the height to take advantage of a self cleaning intake, sometimes cleaning it twice a day, but now it's down to once a week, and I'd far rather do that than pay Nova Scotia Power.
    The biggest problem so far occurred a few days ado during a flash flood, 4 major rain storms in 4 weeks, each spaced one week apart. Washed out one end of the diversion dam. But that was my fault, building it for "normal" high water conditions. Now with the changes we're seeing in our climate, we have to re-think such things and build accordingly.
    And to "Keyturbocars": And I am so thankful! The awesome beauty of it is, that as long as one has water, it never sleeps, just keeps on pumping out the amps, hour after hour, month after month.
    I still can't believe how lucky I am, both to have the site, and to be able to build, operate and maintain it.
    At this moment, both the fridge and the freezer happen to be at rest, it's pitch black dark out, I have lights on, the Christmas tree lit, the air exchanger is running, the computer of course, and the battery voltage is 14.7 What more could I possibly ask!
  • hillbilly
    hillbilly Solar Expert Posts: 334 ✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?

    Wayne that sounds like a pretty cool set up you have. I'm curious about the charge control side of things. You said you were using an MPPT (Tristar) controller to run the turbine at 50V and charge a 12V battery. How do you deal with a dump load then, as I didn't think that the MPPT controllers could do that as well? This is important to us, since we have a 24V battery, but need to operate the turbine at a higher voltage for sure (48V minimum, 120V would be nicer if not too complicated or expensive).

    And you didn't need to offer me any more convincing on Hydro :-) , I was always sold on the concept but had grossly underestimated the potential of the creeks we have on our property. At this point, I'm really just trying to nail down as many of the specs and options as possible to begin the planing stages. I'm hoping to step into this one a lot more informed and prepared than I did with the PV side of things ...
    "Ready, Fire, Aim!"
    thanks for the ideas folks :-)
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,479 admin
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?

    If you are looking at a larger hydro system--The Midnite Solar new Classic MPPT charger (with integrated dump load option for wind/water turbines) might also be an option--although, not cheap).

    Wayne can answer for his setup--I but could see using a standard MPPT controller (like the TriStar) as normal--but set for Vbatt-charging higher than normal (and programming 1 stage charging and/or high float voltage)--And use a second dump controller to keep the battery voltage lower than the MPPT controller setpoint.

    That way, the MPPT controller never releases the load on the turbine--keeping the speed regulated.

    As a safety/backup, you could set up a frequency or voltage monitor on the turbine--If value is > set point, throw a resistive load / shunt on the turbine output to keep it from over speeding.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • waynefromnscanada
    waynefromnscanada Solar Expert Posts: 3,009 ✭✭✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?

    @hillbilly:
    With my settup, the no load voltage never goes above 50 VDC, and cannot over-rev, so dump loads were not necessary. I was able to feed the alternator in as if it were PV. At first, as a trial, I fed it into my MX-60 along with the solar, but the different voltages and MPPT points often confused the MX-60. Sometimes it worked fine, other times it got all screwed up and would lock in at a point way out in left field. So, looking at what I had coming in, I settled on Morningstar's SunSaver MPPT which was rated 75 volts max input, installed it and never looked back. It works perfectly for my application. Just to be sure there wouldn't be some strange voltage spike come up the line from the alternator, I added a 200,000 MFD capacitor across the input of the controller. Very first thing I noticed after being used to the MX-60 was the speed of the sweep. While the MX often takes 10, 20 or more seconds to do a sweep, yes it varies depending on it's mood, the Sunsaver consistently does it in under one and one half seconds. No fooling around trying to make up it's mind. That really impressed me. And as the battery comes up on charge, or the sun happens to poke it's nose through the clouds, the Sunsaver reduces what it accepts from the alternator until it's running free and it's output voltage goes up to 50 volts as the current load drops off and the alternator revs come up to it's max in this application. This works great in my situation, but for anyone with a hydro sett-up that puts out, or might put out a no load voltage higher than the controller can handle, or if the unit might over-rev, there would be no choice but to go with dump loads. I'm lucky on both counts, thus a relatively simple system.
  • Ralph Day
    Ralph Day Solar Expert Posts: 1,019 ✭✭✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?

    Wayne,
    Do you have enough heat sources (read free) in the house to ignore the potential gain from your hydro source? I have a oil filled space heater on a solid state relay (controlled by the aux on the MX60) that can dump heat into the house when absorbing or floating. It helps when there's a lot of wind and the batteries are full SOC. Is there an aux capability on the SunSaver controller?

    Ralph
  • waynefromnscanada
    waynefromnscanada Solar Expert Posts: 3,009 ✭✭✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?
    Ralph Day wrote: »
    Wayne,
    Do you have enough heat sources (read free) in the house to ignore the potential gain from your hydro source? I have a oil filled space heater on a solid state relay (controlled by the aux on the MX60) that can dump heat into the house when absorbing or floating. It helps when there's a lot of wind and the batteries are full SOC. Is there an aux capability on the SunSaver controller?

    Ralph

    Space heating not a need at times when I have most power, which is when the sun shines :) At these times, I must open windows to keep house temp (in winter) below 90F.
    Water heating the same. BUT - - - before I got the hydro running, I had the (solar) MX aux set up to run my two freezers non stop until the end of day (or sun), and that allowed the freezers to run mush less at night. Did have to provide a 10 minute delay circuit though, to be sure the pressure had dropped off in the compressors before starting that day long cycle, or to take care of momentary MX aux dropouts. After hooking up the hydro, I ran into a problem with the MX trying to decide what it should be doing, so disconnected the aux feed to the freezers. May well give that another try, but this time of year, short days and storm after storm seemingly non stop, it's a no go. We MAY have had one, or perhaps two mostly sunny days since before the first of December. Other years during these times, I had to switch everything back to grid, but thankfully with the hydro, I can just keep going as usual :)
    At present, the hydro can handle everything BUT the second freezer, so when we start getting some sun again, that may well be something to revisit.
    Don't ask me why I have TWO full freezers, there is no excuse, other than living in the back woods. Hahahaha
  • Fe-Wood
    Fe-Wood Solar Expert Posts: 96 ✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?

    Hillbilly-
    Can you make a catchment for the seasonal creek?

    I think I would lean toward the second option too, especially if I could pipe the water to a closer location for the batteries. Think poly pipe...
  • hillbilly
    hillbilly Solar Expert Posts: 334 ✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?

    Fe-wood, that's certainly a thought that's been entertained a bit. I don't see us doing any major stream modification due to both impact and financial concerns, but the idea of helping to set a few logs to help pool up the water a bit more in a few places upstream might work out some. It's not just being closer to the batteries and all, but also a much easier location to work with... with that kind of head you can kind of run your piping almost anywhere you need to, with the low head set up it would be a lot of tricky work to get a certain flow to go where we need it too.

    We've been doing a lot more measuring, and it's still kind of a tough choice as the power output overall would doubtlessly be better at the larger low gradient creek. The steeper seasonal creek works out a fair bit cheaper and logistically everything fits together a lot nicer, now we just need to see exactly how often we have enough flow in it to see if it's actually worth it or not. Now if I only had a non functioning wind turbine laying around to plug in and run some real numbers like Wayne ... :-)

    Thanks for the encouragements, and idea's I'll keep you all posted what happens with all of this... my hope would be to start setting things up sometime in the early fall before the days get too short again.
  • Fe-Wood
    Fe-Wood Solar Expert Posts: 96 ✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?
    hillbilly wrote: »
    Now if I only had a non functioning wind turbine laying around to plug in and run some real numbers like Wayne ... :-)

    Go to your favorite junk yard and pick up a used alternator. Take it to your local auto parts house and have them do a run test. They can give you the running amps at specific RPMs....

    make a pelton wheel out of car or truck radiator fan with some simple modifications?
    could result in cheep test equipment?

    Just a thought-
    If you can produce a large amount of power with the bigger stream and are concurned about the wire lenght- Why not find a larger Generating source and let there be a large line loss. Compensate the other way so to speek
  • mike95490
    mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,583 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Options
    Re: Anyone here have a micro hydro in their energy system?

    Here are a couple of links I came across:

    http://www.pumpfundamentals.com/pumps_as_turbines.htm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRl0ztxn094

    A rather large setup, not "micro" by my standards.
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,