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How realistic is small scale hydroelectric?

Ray Cover

Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
Please bare with me I am trying to get my head around this and get a realistic perspective rather than an idealistic one.

IF I bought property like I would like to in the future I would definitely insist on property with a spring branch or decent river. Missouri has more natural springs than any other other state and they are fairly common here. It is very possible to find such land.

I make my living as an artist and would not only need to power my home but also my machine/wood shop. Without the shop I am working at McDonalds.... Now I only use one machine at a time but I am often running a lathe or milling machine, etc.

Anyway, If a person had enough head and flow to make themselves a decent dam to run a few generators is it realistic to develop a system that will power both a home and a workshop and be totally off grid? And I mean average electrical use. I understand the average house uses about 1000KWH per month I could probably get a way with less than that through conservation habits, high efficiency lighting, etc. I just don't want to have to be so miserly that I feel like I live in a post apocalyptic world with rabid zombies at the door.

My big problem is I am having a very hard time getting all the small pieces of info I find put together into a big overall picture. How much power can you expect to get out of a generator/s if you can build a decent size turbine or a few decent size turbines to run them from a dam? Is there a way to store and convert the electricity to AC to run a home with 150 amp service and a shop with 50 amp service?

Let me add that even if it cost me more to set it up that buying electricity for he rest of my life from Ameren UE I would be willing to do that. If I could set up a system that would allow me to spend the rest of my life off grid and pass that down to my kids it would be WELL worth it costing more initially.

I understand the basic principles of how a turbine and generator work but there are a lot of missing links in my info as far as taking that principle and using it in a practical application.
Kevin Pegg

Joined: Apr 02, 2012
Posts: 9
Location: Smithers, BC Canada
It's entirely possible to do what your asking here. Details, details, details however! I live off-grid, with solar and wind now and microhydro in the future, and it supports a full home, office, metal shop, wood shop, etc in Northern BC, Canada. I've got clients all over who also have similar setups.

It's best to get away from sizing based on 150 amp service, etc as that's all theoretical and look more towards kWh of energy is needed. There are two considerations - peak power - ie when all appliances running what's the peak power, that will help size the inverter and system. Then there is the daily kWh demand which is what your future microhydro or whatever needs to support. If it's a one person shop it's pretty easy as there are only so many tools you can run concurrently.

The main consideration for successful off-grid is no electric heating as a general rule. I have aux electric elements in my hot water system that I will dump surplus solar/wind energy into, but that's just me being a geek about using every but of energy I get in.

Cj Verde

Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3393
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
Ray Cove wrote:
Is there a way to store and convert the electricity to AC to run a home with 150 amp service and a shop with 50 amp service?

I don't think you'll be happy storing AC in a battery for running a wood workshop. Your drain will be too great. You'd probably need a backup generator so it'd be cheaper to run the workshop right off of that and power the rest of your house off hydro.

If you could running your workshop equipment off of incoming power from hydro then it makes sense.

I've been off grid for 19 years. We have a small possible hyrdo site (3 season) but it would trickle charge the batteries and haven't got around to setting it up yet.

My project thread
Agriculture collects solar energy two-dimensionally; but silviculture collects it three dimensionally.
Walter Jeffries

Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 926
Ray Cover wrote:Missouri has more natural springs than any other other state and they are fairly common here.

Really? I seriously doubt that. Main has a lot of springs and is much bigger. Alaska has a lot of springs and is much, much, much..............MUCH bigger than Missouri. We have a _lot_ of springs on our land here in Vermont.

Okay, but the issue of who has the most springs aside...

Yes, this is very feasible. We have a small spring with a large head that I calculate could generate around 19KW/hr. That's over 13Megawatts a month which is more than the 1Megawatt a month you're looking for.

Personally, I would suggest avoiding going the battery route. I don't like batteries as they are chemical based, wear out and are expensive. If you need a lot more power then put in a pond as the energy reservoir and draw it down when needed letting it fill backup when you don't need the capacity.

There are also very energy efficient 3-phase motors you might look at getting. You can get matching 3-phase 240VAC generators to go with them for the turbine.

Ray Cover wrote:Is there a way to store and convert the electricity to AC to run a home with 150 amp service and a shop with 50 amp service?

That is a lot of amperage for the home and little for the shop. Have you got the actual usage numbers right? If so I would look at what you could do to reduce the loads. That is a lot of power. Doable but a lot.


-Walter Jeffries
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:

Check out our Kickstarting the Butcher Shop project at:
Marcos Buenijo

Joined: Dec 18, 2011
Posts: 583
Location: Southwest U.S.
Hi Ray. I have a different perspective on using a battery system. There are really only two options for a hydro system (or any power generating system). Either you have a large, expensive, and complicated system that is capable of driving an alternator at a constant speed and high power output for generating ac electricity for use directly in a home - or you can use a smaller, less expensive, and simpler system to drive a smaller alternator for battery charging at a low rate and use an inverter for ac electricity. Now, battery systems for use in off grid settings can be extremely expensive, not only in their initial costs, but also in the long term costs. What kills a battery system is frequent high discharges. However, this can be avoided in a properly designed hydro system because power is always available (as opposed to a solar PV system). A system can be easily devised to use a very small battery system that would never be highly discharged. What this means is the battery system can be both inexpensive and also last a very long time. The system is devised to keep the battery voltage within a narrow range from full charge down to a low partial discharge. There are simple charge controllers on the market that sense battery voltage to operate solid state switches that can be used to control solenoid valves. At a voltage that corresponds to a full charge on the battery, a valve can be actuated to either cut off water to the turbine or to greatly slow the flow rate for trickle charging the battery. At a voltage that corresponds to a preset (and adjustable, if desired) voltage indicating a certain amount of discharge, the valve can be opened to restart water flow and resume battery charging. Use your imagination, and you can come up with all sorts of configurations. It's even possible to have intermediate charging rates (i.e. trickle, medium, high, etc.). Sounds like a lot of fun to me!

NOTE: Based on your description, you're going to need electricity delivered at a high rate for the machines. So this kind of configuration would likely require that you operate your loads separately by using interlocks on the switches/breakers to keep within the rating of the inverter system. You mentioned you use only one machine at a time, but still... you would need some serious inverters. Good news is that they seems to getting more inexpensive and reliable by the year.
arild jensen

Joined: Mar 02, 2012
Posts: 37
Location: New Hazelton BC zone 3 lat 56 north
Requests to run shops off grid are becoming more frequent. Previous posters have pointed out that batteries are not the best approach.
I would tend to agree with this assessment. However there are other approaches. Hydro is the most obvious but if the stream does not have sufficient flow rate or head this may not seem feasible at first glance..
There is another way. Have a look at boat or ship mills illustrated in www.lowtechmagazine.com
From around 635 AD water powered mills have ground grain sawn wood and later on powered various factories in Europe.
Much of middle age Europe and the subsequent industrilazation was powered in this manner with thousands of water mills doting the landscape.

Many of those rivers used to provide the power did not have much in the way of head to drive modern turbine generators. Instead they had slower flowing rivers driving undershot water wheels turning at very slow speeds. Even so they did deliver power. Torque can be created by wodening the size of the paddles immersed in the water. Gears or more likely belts and pulleys provided speed multiplication. Ther was at one tomea home improvement show called this old house. the carrpenter by name of Abrams bought an abandoned grist mill then refurbished it as a wood working shop. He powered all his machinery from the water wheel and generated enough power for his lights. Granted that most people will not be so fortunate but the general principles can be adapted.
Dams can be difficult and expensive to build not to mention requiring the services of an engineer to design and supervise the construction. In addition the very real danger of a dam collapse with subsequent flooding down stream makes this a highly risky venture, No doubt localmunicipalities would get involved and demand compliance to code or more likely simply not allow it.
However there is usually no rules to prevent setting up a tank resevoir. this opens up the possibility of pulse power. This is a totally foreign concept in North America as far as I know.

arild jensen

Joined: Mar 02, 2012
Posts: 37
Location: New Hazelton BC zone 3 lat 56 north
The subject of getting higher power levels for off grid locations has a number of solutions. My wife was born on an off grid homestead that also ran a sawmill.
A century ago the saw mill was powered by a steam engine fuelled by scrap wood sawdust etc.
When electric lights were finally fitted ( my wife was 14 by that time ) Electric power was derived from a diesel engine.
In todays ecologically aware society using a diesel engine may not be be politically correct but other fuels are available. Methane and propane to mention the two most readily available.

Even in shops with high power demands, the actual loading is not always continuous or even long lasting. With clever design and load management this can be overcome. Back in 2003 the conventional wisdom said you could not run air conditioning on a inverter. Today 124 USCG patrolboats are using my design to drive their air conditioning and the company I designed it for is now selling the concept to the US Navy for their Littoral combat vessels according to the brag sheets in the equipment manufacturrers brag sheet on their website.
Just because it wasn't done yesterday does not mean it is not possible tomorrow.
R Scott

Joined: Apr 13, 2012
Posts: 2750
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
My vote is for a woodgas generator to run the shop and peak demand, with a small basic microhydro/wind/solar setup for lighting and basic loads (whatever works for your property). I think it is a better system to scale with the peak demand of a shop than a pure battery/inverter setup.

"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi. "Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
arild jensen

Joined: Mar 02, 2012
Posts: 37
Location: New Hazelton BC zone 3 lat 56 north
There are in fact several manufacturers who make turn key wood gas systems for those unable or unwilling to make their own. Given that trees and scrub brush is a renewable resource this does seem like a good choice.
arild jensen

Joined: Mar 02, 2012
Posts: 37
Location: New Hazelton BC zone 3 lat 56 north
Ray before you go down this road too far make a point of determining exactly how much power you actually need. Too do so ther are several power meters available for reasonable prices. At the low end a "kill-a-Watt" meter cost around $25 at amazon but is limited to 1800 watts instantaneous at 120V only.
Another instrument suited for single phase house panels with a center tapped neutral in the common 120/240V configuration is called TED5000 and cost abit more than$200
Other brands are available but I have no personal experience with them. Both instruments will gove you instantaneous measurements and accumulated watt hour totals per day week or month.
With accurate data in hand you can then assess what products or methods suit your situation best.
Ray Cover

Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
Thanks everyone for the input and info.

As for the number of springs, I read that in a Missouri natural resources mag but I haven't actually counted them so I was taking their work for it. Of course, can you really trust gov agencies now days? LOL I do know we have a LOT of them and finding property with a fairly good one is very doable. We have a lot of trout farms and trout parks in MO due to the large number of big springs. That's why I was thinking hydro may be a good future plan.

My wife is actually getting a bit of wonderlust herself and starting to talk about moving so this may actually become a reality for me. My parents and my siblings have talked about all selling out and throwing in with me and the bunch of us start a family homestead somewhere. So I am really starting to try and find practical ways to make the energy thing work.

I have no idea how to measure our actual usage but I will look into that. I read that the average American uses just under 1000 KW a month. My shop would require less I suspect. The machine I run most often is my lathe it is a 220 machine with a DC regenerative variable speed drive that draws about 4-5 amps unless I have something big in it and really have it under load or really have the speed cranked up (max draw is 7 amps). I'm getting those numbers form the meter on the drive box but I don't know how accurate it is. Most of my machines are in that same range. 1-2 horsepower machines running off 220 or 110. I have a 50 amp box in my shop currently split into two 25 amp lines (one running down each side of the room). and I never draw enough to trip breakers even when my daughter is on her wood lathe while I am running another machine.

Is there an "alternative energy for dummies" book out there you all could recommend so I can get a better overall picture of what is out there that I could apply to this situation?

I currently make my living as an artist and I make a decent living. The wife and I together are bringing in about 100K annually. But we both work our butts off to do it and keep up with the mortgage and all the bills. My ultimate goal is to get set up so that I can live off less money, be more self sufficient, work and actual 8 hr day instead of a 12 hr day and set on the back porch smoke my pipe and watch the sun go down now and then.

Ultimately, part of that means getting out of town so I don't have a water bill, sewer bill, and double the property and sales tax that folks in the rural areas around here have. Part of it means growing and raising a lot more of our own food. Part of it will have to be employing a lot of re-purposed building materials and alternative construction so I don't end up having another huge mortgage, and hopefully providing all my own energy. From what I have seen most of the cost are up front on getting an off grid system of any kind set up. Once that is paid for it is very economical to run and use. At least that is the impression from what I have read.

Anyway, enough rambling, I do appreciate everyone's perspective and input.


PS. Maine has 35,385 square miles. Missouri has 69,709 square miles. We are almost twice as big as Maine is

Marcos Buenijo

Joined: Dec 18, 2011
Posts: 583
Location: Southwest U.S.
Ray, it seems we're not answering your original questions. The short answer is that if you have the required head and flow, then you're set. If your site has far more than you need, then you can do a direct a/c system (no batteries or inverters!), and this would be a dream. More likely you're going to rely a number of systems to stay off grid.

Some good sites for you to research include:


Example articles from these sites:

Ray Cover

Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
Thanks Marcos,

I will check those sources out.

Of course, I would like to find (and afford) the dream situation where I have plenty of head and flow to spare. I'm sure everyone would. Outside of that can a system be practically built that takes what hydro you can produce and incorporate solar and wind along with that into a direct AC system so that all sources are feeding into your own "grid"? I would rather use a direct AC system if possible.

I realize that not incorporating batteries sets up a situation where you may have brown outs or black outs because your not going to always be producing the same amount of energy from the wind and solar. To my mind, dealing with that comes down to retraining your peeps to turn off what they are not using and not waste whats available.

Again thanks,

arild jensen

Joined: Mar 02, 2012
Posts: 37
Location: New Hazelton BC zone 3 lat 56 north
Have a look at www.lowtechmagazine.com and find the articles on boat or ship mills. The point of this is to show just how much power is available even with zero or very low head. Our engineering people have got themselves into a mindset where only one approach is considered because it maximize profits for share holders. The reality is for almost 1500 years water power was the prime source to drive industry in Europe.
It was used elsewhere as well but the design and engineering was not as clearly documented nor as widespread in use.

Many of Europes's rivers do not provide sufficient head to power our modern style turbines unless you invest in multi million dollar construction of dams. Even so most of these rivers were crowded with mills grinding grain, cutting timber and powering looms making cloth and felt.

Ray Cover

Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
Arild, are you talking about using a traditional type large undershot wheel to turn generators or to run the old school gang shafts in a wood /machine shop?

I had thought of using a large traditional wheel before I started reading up. You are right they are slow but have considerable torque. Using cog/pulley sizes or a gear box to increase the speed I can see a large traditional 12ft-14ft water wheel turning a fairly good size generator or bank of generators. You could literally get 2,000+ rpms using on of those large slow wheels and still have sufficient torque using either a pulley drive system or a gear box.

That was my original thinking but then I started reading that you have to use this and have that, etc. I am a fairly good machinist and a fairly good mechanical engineer. I can strip a metal lathe down to its bare nuts and rebuild it in my sleep. However, my knowledge of electricity is limited. I wired my shop to code. That wasn't a problem but to build a system from scratch is going to take a lot more study on my part.

Thanks for redirecting my thinking and reopening this type of possibility.

arild jensen

Joined: Mar 02, 2012
Posts: 37
Location: New Hazelton BC zone 3 lat 56 north
Either approach would work ,- - - - depending. <smile>
The carpenter side kick ( Abrams ) in the long ago show 'This old house' bought a property with an existing old mill having a long shaft running the lenght of the building. He renovated it and produced wooden products. Those big wheels had tremendous torque so with proper gearing can deliver good speeds.
The suggestion of going direct AC instead of using a battery system has a few caveats. Water flow regulation is the prime issue. I worked for a company that designed equipment for Ontario Hydro. At one point they asked us to design a controller to regulate water flow to a remotely controlled turbine generator. Oh my did that get involved, ... and expensive.
For hybrid systems utilizing a mix of power sources a different approach is called for. We use such systems on board larger recreational boats. But this is not the usual approach used for many small off-grid installations.

Marcos Buenijo

Joined: Dec 18, 2011
Posts: 583
Location: Southwest U.S.
Ray, you might be overthinking this a bit... or maybe I'm overconfident. I also have limited electrical experience, but I've done a lot of research. If you can get a reliable small hydro set up as the core of an off grid energy system, then everything else would be simplified. If the hydro doesn't provide all your electricity needs, then a few PV panels here, a wind turbine there, and perhaps a backup generator over there (maybe even a wood gasifier), and you'll be set. The main concern is the battery system. Most off grid systems use a diversion load switch to disconnect the battery from the charging source on high battery voltage. These are damn near plug and play, and you can adjust the setpoints. If the battery gets "full", then the switch diverts the output to a dump load (usually a heating element to heat water or air). Most likely the other systems could keep on charging, but a second switch can divert these too with a higher set point.

Man, hydro really is the way to go. I can only dream about it. Your batteries could last decades if properly configured and maintained with a hydro system.

Here is a video showing a very LOW head system. It doesn't seem efficient at first glance. However, if the numbers he claims are accurate (1000 gpm, 3 foot head, and 300+ watts electrical), then the efficiency is excellent. It sure is simple (which I love): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbowRUuP9Kk&feature=plcp
arild jensen

Joined: Mar 02, 2012
Posts: 37
Location: New Hazelton BC zone 3 lat 56 north
Marcos you are correct this is a simple elegant system. However keep in mind Ray intends to install this somewhere in the New England area and winter ice conditions would cause this configuration to stop working often.
This is a perrenial issue with you southern people. What works fine down south is not always suitable in more northerly climates.
That being said, We do have northern location hydro power dams that continue working right through the coldest winters.
Your research needs to be tempered with practical experience. < smile>
The thing about hydro power is the dearth of suitable sites. All the good ones are already taken. And the remainder have restrictions such as fish habitat protection or riparean water rights.
What is needed is fresh thinking on new techniques using sites with marginal conditions using conventional approaches.
Marcos Buenijo

Joined: Dec 18, 2011
Posts: 583
Location: Southwest U.S.
arild jensen wrote:Your research needs to be tempered with practical experience. < smile>

Certainly... I have enough experience to know that there are always devils in the details, .
Ray Cover

Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri

I am actually in Missouri and want to eventually live in the southern half. Winters are relatively mild here. Icing would be a minor issue a couple days at a time and then a 60 degree day melts it off. That's the way our winters work here most of the time. We get a snow of 4-5 inches it stays on the ground half a week and a warm front comes through and melts it off. We don't get near the winter weather that New England gets.

Ray Cover

Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
After watching the video I think I still would be better off with a large wheel system turning pre-made generators. I at least understand the mechanics of such a system. If I could get 3-4 generators running off a gang shaft using either a belt or chain drive. Do the math to figure how big of a sprocket I need on the main wheel shaft to run the gang shaft at the roper speed to work the generators. Use a chain drive between the main sprocket and the gang shaft with a clutch/tumbler sprocket in the works so that you could disengage the system easily if you needed to work on something.

From there it just seems a matter of electronics to stabilize things at 60hz and 220v.

The only problem would be floods. I can see if you had a flash flood like the Missouri hills are prone to, that you could get the whole system potentially sped up to fast. From what I have seen the old timers handled that by either putting the mill in a diversion channel where they could regulate the flow and the main flood would pass on by in the main channel of the river or on smaller water put the wheel in the main channel and crate a diversion channel to handle the overflow flood water.

I really think the mechanics of this type system would be pretty easy to build. I would just need to learn how to regulate the power to 60hz 220v.

When we talk about the expense of such power regulation, are we talking $2,500 or are we talking $50,000?
Marcos Buenijo

Joined: Dec 18, 2011
Posts: 583
Location: Southwest U.S.
Ray, I always try to think of a way to build a system that's not smarter than I. In practice, this means a very simple system indeed! . The kind of system you're describing seems ideal, with the exception of the electronics. Electronics may well be the most practical way to go. However, personally, I always try to find a way around such components... if anything, this line of thinking leads to interesting thought experiments. One idea I considered is to place a mechanical brake on the system in the form of a hydraulic pump. This could provide a foundation for a simple mechanical speed control system that, combined with the momentum of a large wheel, might prove to provide precise speed control without electronics. Best part is you could fix it yourself.
arild jensen

Joined: Mar 02, 2012
Posts: 37
Location: New Hazelton BC zone 3 lat 56 north
Ray I usually spec DC chargers that can tolerate a wide voltage input. Then I discovered the manufacture had changed the spec so the same charger could handle Dc input as wellas widely fluctuating frequency. Hmmm? Then it dawned on me this was to accomodate the new breed of solar panels intended for grid tie as well as other types of generator sources. For European grid tie you need 230V @50Hz but their equipment is able to select either 50Hz or 60Hz still at 230V. To accomodate 120V equipment I find it easier to design in a stepdown transformer than deal with that idiocy of a center tapped neutral with the attendant unbalanced neutral current. In one job we ordered a 4kW transformer and it arrived de;overed docvkside in Floridqa for around $100

If you look at the lowtechmagazine you will see how the floating boat mills accomnodated river floods havi0ng water levels chaging by 10 - 20 feet
It is far safer to adjust wheel blade immersion where you are not fighting the force of the water.
Spillways are used to adjust water flow to modern turbines but then you get into expensive civil works construction. A floating undershot wheel is not as efficient but it is easier to regulate especially with electronic devices these days.
Scott L. Davis

Joined: Mar 12, 2013
Posts: 26
I lived for decades with water power in a remote area of BC. Yes, it's hard to get the information you need about small waterpower, so that's why I wrote Microhydro:Clean Power from Water, available from New Society Publishers at newsociety.com. In it I tell how our family used an existing irrigation system to provide quite a lot of electricity.

Later, I collected an anthology of more than seventy microhydro case studies to bring together many people's experiences with the wide variety of heads, flows, terrain and needs that are nonethess practical applications of microhydro technology. This book, Serious Microhydro: Water Power Solution from the Experts is of value not just to people who have prospective sites, but also to a general audience. Important lessons about energy get learned by those developing waterpower sites and everyone would be better off knowing that a high standard of living can be had with much less power than we think of as normal (for example).

Definitely, a viable microhydro site is an important element of the perfect homestead.


Heather Brenner

Joined: Jan 21, 2013
Posts: 28
Location: Helmville, Montana
Finding country land in MO with a creek that will work for hydro is indeed easy, as long as you stay in the Ozarks. Make sure it'll flow year round, but most do.

By the way, Ray, just to let you know, AmerenUE isn't actually likely to be who would be providing grid electricity once you get out of the city. The mostly curse St Louis and Jeff City with their foul stench. A lot of rural MO communities actually do their grid electricity via local co-ops.

We're from MO, but have recently moved to MT (as MO is twice the size of ME, so MT is twice the size of MO...with about 1/2 the population of the St Louis metro area!)
Nick Kitchener

Joined: Sep 24, 2012
Posts: 395
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
I wonder if you could have a small hydro system just for the house.

Any excess, especially at night, could be used to run a compressor that pumps a holding tank full of air.

The air can be used in the workshop during the day to power the machines.
Tony Masterson

Joined: Nov 03, 2013
Posts: 13
Or fill a water tower that's connected to a hydro generator you can use for peak loads. Perhaps you could also use rainwater to help it fill more quickly.
Would be a real option if your yard is sloped. Build a swimming pool like basin on high ground. Pipe to a generator on low ground. Then you can use every bit of over capacity to fill a massive pool.

I'm planning to build a south facing 430 m2/4628 sqft, 1 story house with floor heating near Indianapolis or the southern half of Nova Scotia. Insulation R20 walls, Roof R40+, double of triple glazing. Constant indoor temperature of 21C/70F.
Michael Cox

Joined: Jun 09, 2013
Posts: 1185
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
I'd be thinking about direct mechanical drives for your shop. Set up a high pond/dam and run a large diameter pipe down slope to your shop. Build yourself a drive - perhaps a tesla turbine if you are skilled with machines? - to power a drive shaft and take off power directly using belts. When you want to work simply open the valve to set your drive shaft spinning. Close it again when done.

If fed from a pipe in a deep pond, and the pipe is buried sufficiently under ground, you should be able to operate year round despite freezing conditions.

This seems like a good solution to cope with high intensity peaks in demand while you are working in your shop, without needing to over design your baseload electricity supply for household lighting etc...
Tokunbo Popoola

Joined: Mar 19, 2013
Posts: 191
Location: Sacramento, CA
what's the cost like on this i saw this but it doesnt look cheap

S Bengi

Joined: Nov 29, 2012
Posts: 1139
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
For now I am only going to focus on your home.
Assuming you only use the hydro system for lighting, fridge, tv/computers/etc. You can bring your daily usage down to 6kwhr/day or 180KWh per month.
8KWHR battery=$1200
250W/hr gives us 6KWHr in 24 hours. How much does a 250W generator cost=$1200
Inverter/etc=$1200, you can build the entire system for about $4,000

Light=6 rooms*2bulbs(inside and outside)*4hrs/day*20W/hr = 960W
Fridge= 1 * 100 *24 = 2400W
Laptop= 3laptop*50W/hr * 10hrs =1500W
TV = 2 tv* 100W/hr * 3hr =600W
etc = 500W
That is less than 6KW per day.

1000KWHr per month is 33.3KWHr per day or 1400W per hour. It is very likely that your spring will not produce this much power per hour.
but if it can then you are going to need
Generator 1400W=$4000
Inverter = $4000

Total system about $16,000 needing a big revamp every 10 years.

Tom Dakan

Joined: Jun 05, 2014
Posts: 1
I've been wandering the forum the last few days and came across this thread so I wanted to chime in with the intial blog that got me interested in microhydro. A guy named Manfred Mornhinweg down in South America (Chile I think) posted a great series of pictures of his microhydro install. It definitely looks like he has plenty of head, but the interesting part is that he's also excellent with electronics and includes schematics and code for a microcontroller-based power regulator that he's using for his system. So if you someone does have any experience with a soldering iron, or wants to learn, you don't have to invent any wheels. The thread that covers the microhydro install is here: http://ludens.cl/paradise/turbine/turbine.html he also talks about how he's divided up the circuits in his home, etc. Obviously the building code/environmental regulations wherever he is are a lot less strict than we generally have to deal with in the states but there is plenty of good information in there.
Topher Belknap

Joined: May 19, 2014
Posts: 205
Location: Midcoast Maine (zone 5b)

Wattage from a hydro source is given by:

Head (in feet) * flow (in gallons/minute) * 0.18 * efficiency = Power (in watts)

To get 1400W, you would need roughly 20,000 feet-gallons/minute (e.g. 200 gallons per minute down 100 feet of drop).
A more reasonable 5 kWh per day -> 208 Watts (continuous) -> 3,000 feet-gallons/minute (e.g. 50 gallons / minute down a 50 foot drop).

Also, just so some of don't wince, Watts is a rate, namely energy (actually electrons) per unit time. Which is why we multiply it by the time we use it, to get total energy.
10W bulb on for 10 hours = 100 Wh or 0.1 kWh. kWh is therefore a unit of energy. One of my missions in life is to spread this particular little piece of knowledge.

Thank You Kindly,

Energy Curmudgeon
Green Fret Consulting
thomas rubino

Joined: Apr 14, 2013
Posts: 451
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana
Hi all; Had to throw my 2 cents worth in. I have been off grid since 1983 and have had micro hydro since 1995. It all depends on head & or flow, how much you can do. In my case i have apx 300' of vertical drop in 2200' of 1 1/2' line , 125 psi at the house! But, only 2-3 gal min flow... High head- Low flow , I generate apx 10 amps @ 12vt 24 hrs a day 365 days a year. i use a battery system (one set L-16 ) with an inverter. I also have solar panels for sunny times ,but here in the n.w. clouds and fog are common. Not enough wind here to have a wind genny. I do have and use a remote start generator for high draw times. A constant diversion charge control is a requirement when using a hydro. Freeze up is not an issue if... you don't turn it off in the winter ! Running water does not freeze but standing water will. Unless you have tremendous potential with your water power , trying to run it all will not work well. Start slow, with running your house on alt energy, its not as easy as it sounds . normal appliances are horrible energy hogs! Refrigerators , washing machines , dryers, microwaves all have times of huge power draw. Learning what to use and when to use it takes time. Get a high quality diesel generator for power when you are running high draw items ! It is possible to do what you have in mind but... let yourself grow into living off grid and making your own power, if you try to do it all at once you will end up spending major $ for somebody else to come in and build you a system ,that you will not know enough about and when it has problems you will be at their mercy! Learn how to run your house on alt energy , then light up your shop with it , but your 220 vt wood tools at first, will probably need help either with a generator or a separate water-wind-solar system. Over time with enough water, sun and wind and sadly with a fair amount of $ and knowledge , you can build a system that will run your whole homestead forever! Building your system and learning to live off grid should be a family affair where everybody who benefits from it also understands how to maintain it !

Not all who wander are lost... J.R.R. Tolkien
Ovidiu Sandru

Joined: Feb 17, 2015
Posts: 2
Here's how to build a small scale hydroelectric generator. Totally worth the try.
subject: How realistic is small scale hydroelectric?