Since the winter of 2005 I have been investigating the use of micro-hydro turbines for the generation of residential electricity.
Now, after our research a group of us have begun the actual process of installing individual units.
This year, in the winter of 2008, we will be installing units in India, working through the Department of Renewable Energy, based in New Delhi, India. Subsequently, we will be installing units in other places as demanded.
We will be posting our progress here www.gelectricity.org as well as discussing various aspects of the installation of these units.
The purpose of the Green Electricity project is to reduce the dependency on a national electrical grid system for individual homes on the one hand, and to provide electricity to those homes in remote areas where electricity is unavailable.
Here is an introductory synopsis:
Small scale hydropower, and its even smaller micro hydro power, has been used in previous centuries as a means for harnessing water for grinding flour, milling grain and even for some manufacturing. At a larger scale, the big dams generate only electricity or mass large scale usage. Micro and small hydropower is on the same concept, that of using water to generate power and electricity. There is one major difference, that of ecology and scale. Micro hydropower generated electricity does not change the ecological balance. It only 'borrows' the water, which is run through the turbine, and then the water continues on its path as it would have done without the turbine. It does not change the ecological balance of the fish and other live organisms in the water. Those turbine units used for grinding flour or seeds at the time when they are not generating electricity, or in combination with generating electricity, leave a fine residue which the fish and other live organisms in the water feed on, thereby happily enjoying the additional food, before swimming on down stream, where the water continues its path.
Homes that have turbine units installed have been successful in being entirely independent of the national grid system, and in some cases, feed some electricity back into the national grid system.
These units are installed where there is a vertical drop, called a head, of at least 3 feet, and about 20 gallons per minute of flow. If there is more head / more fall distance, then less water is required. The more head and water there is, the more power is generated. Pipelines are used to adjust the source for a sufficient fall. A simple machine is attached to the turbine wheel, and that generates the power. The turbines are constructed for specific installations. This is not difficult to do, since they are simple machinery.
We often hear about Solar and Wind power now-a-days, and also Biomass and GeoThermal power. Little is mentioned about Micro and Small Hydropower. Yet, the potential of Micro and Small Hydropower is enormous due to its potential of wide scale, low cost, and easy application. Additionally, the sources of water maintain a consistency which is easy to estimate as compared to wind. Solar energy is ideal for those areas where the Sun is constant, but in areas where the sunny days are infrequent, Solar energy is not practical. Water turbines produce power continuously, 24 hours per day. Water power runs day and night, so it is excellent for off-grid systems where it can reduce the dependency on big battery systems. It can be 10 to 100 times cheaper per watt than photovoltaic or wind turbines. More water is available in the winter, when photovoltaic power is lowest, so even a small micro hydro power is a very good adjunct to a solar power system.
Capacity: mini hydro is up to 1,000 kW but below 1 MW, Small hydro power is from 10 MW perhaps 25 MW to 30 MW. Both of these usually feed into an electrical grid. The amount of power generated will depend on the combination of water fall, or head, the amount of water flow and the efficiency of the turbine. As we know, this efficiency is increasing in current times.
Micro hydro is not more than 100kW. Usually this provides power for remote areas away from a grid.
Micro hydroelectric power is for small communities, single families or small enterprise. Historically, these appeared first in the mid 19th. century and have been becoming more efficient since then. Combining this with simple methods of diverting energy to obtain the highest drop for a watercourse has made this an effective and practical means for generating enough electricity for small family and business needs.
While most people can find sunshine or wind somewhere on their property, only a privileged few have a flowing stream and a slope, which are required for micro hydro power. However, for those who have running water on the property, this is a power source that should not be overlooked.
- Micro-hydroelectric energy is a continuously renewable electrical energy source.
- Micro-hydroelectric energy is non-polluting - no heat or noxious gases are released.
- Micro-hydroelectric energy has no fuel cost and with low operating and maintenance costs, it is essentially inflation proof.
- Micro-hydroelectric energy technology is a proven technology that offers reliable and flexible operation.
- Micro-hydroelectric stations have a long life and many existing stations have been in operation for more than half a century and are still operating efficiently.
- Micro-hydropower station efficiencies of over 90% are achieved making it the most efficient of energy conversion technologies.
The installation of micro-hydro units has been held up due to ambiguity in the law, and security concerns. Since water is a fluid, flowing entity, it is very difficult if not impossible to control security when water is "borrowed" from a main source and then "returned" to the main source. How will contamination of water leaving a property be monitored, or terrorist activity of water polution be monitored?
With minerals found in private property the ownership is clear. The law is unclear about water because of its fluidity.
Who owns the water that is on private property? According to current law, water on private property belongs to the owner. This matter is under federal consideration. President Obama has signed an executive order claiming every drop of water belongs to the government. His executive order is being challnaged by lawsuits instigated by 25 states at this point. The number of states joining the lawsuit is expected to increase.