are typically defined as 300 kW and less. The limit is set to 300 kW because
this is about the maximum size for most stand alone hydro systems not
connected to the grid, and suitable for "run-of-the-river" installations.
micro-hydro generator that receives flowing water under pressure (from an
elevated dam or stream), uses the power of the water to turn an impeller,
and the impeller's shaft turns the electric generator to make electricity.
To better understand how a micro turbine works, a water pump works in
reverse of a hydro generator. For a pump, electricity is used to turn
a motor at high speed (eg. 1720 rpm). The motor shaft turns an
impeller. The impeller is in an enclosed case flooded with water.
When the impeller turns, it sucks water in from the pump's suction inlet
pipe, and forces the water out of the pump at significant pressure and flow
through the pump's discharge pipe. The water pump is the exact reverse
of a micro turbine.
This model of micro-turbine needs at least 6 feet of head (ie. the water
supply must be from a source of water that is at least 6 feet in height
above the top surface of the water discharging from the turbine.
The turbine produces DC electricity that can be used to charge batteries,
or used directly to power some electrical load. An inverter can be
used to change the DC to AC power (standard household current).
On a $/kW-hr, over its expected life, micro-hydro will produce some of
the lowest cost power from any available source, typically as low as $0.03
see a water source coming from the top of the hill, with a pipeline bringing
it down the hill to a turbine at the base of the hill.
As we descend the
hill, the pressure inside the pipe increases, 15 psig pressure for every 33
feet we descend down the hill.
can be controlled, and the amount of water flow can be measured by use of a
rate in a stream can be estimated by sounding the depth of water at various
points across the width of the stream.
A float on the surface of the water
can be used to estimate the velocity of the water flow in the centre of the
Calculus can be used to obtain the total cubic meters per second of water
flow from this simple data collection.
|Old mill ponds can be refurbished and retro-fitted with the
latest in high efficiency turbines, generating sufficient electricity to
power an entire house or farm, with sufficient power to justify commercial
export of power to the local electrical grid.
Large siphon turbines
use grid power and electric motors to run the turbine as a pump to get water
flowing up the high side of a dam, then down the other side by gravity and
Once the flow is established, the grid power to the electric motor is
cut, but the water continues to flow due to the siphon action. The
electric motor on the turbine then becomes a generator, sending power back
to the grid. If the siphon is lost for any reason, the process is
repeated, re-establishing power generation.
|10 kW siphonic turbine (large blue object in foreground, with
dark blue motor/generator and red V-belt cover), 11 siphon intake pipes in
mill pond edge can be seen along right edge of photo.
|5 kW siphonic turbine installed at old mill pond
|Low head turbines of 200, 500, and 1,000 watt
turbines that need just 1.5 meter head.
They are ideal for remote
locations, and need minimal civil work to install
They can be installed on a side stream, at a dam, or a rapid/falls in a
|Durable, low-head bronze propeller to produce
power on a head of 2 to 10 feet
~90 watts at 2 feet of head with ~450 gpm
up to 1000 watts at 10 feet of head with 1000 gpm
|In-stream, submersible generator. Also
available with prop shroud to protect prop from damage and fouling.
at 96 watts (8 Amps output current for a 12 volt system at 9.2 mph or 8
knots or 4 m/s current; or 4 amps peak at 24 volts DC; or 2 amps peak at 48
Water speed greater than 4 mph (3.75 knots or 1.79 m/s) is highly
recommended or power output will not be significant. Power output increases
with faster water speed.
|Francis-style turbine for heads as low as 3 ft.
while producing 2.2 kW of power. Life expectancy of 50 years with 7 to
10 years between bearing changes.
|Water coming from 60 ft. up the mountain (white
pipe) is used to generate up to 5 hp of power for woodworking using a water
motor, powered by a modern turbine.
||Hydrological resource data can be collected to show the
total amount of water flow available at different times during the year.
The red shows the water without the hydroelectric system, the blue is with
the hydroelectric system. All the available water resource is only
used for a few months during the summer, at the time of lowest stream flows.
At other times, there is excess water flow.
||The above data is summarized into one graph, the FDC (Flow
Distribution Curve), showing the water flow rate vs. the % of the year that
that flow is exceeded.
An optimum turbine needs to be selected. Too
big, and it can only operate at spring and fall runoff. Too small, and
it misses the large opportunities but stays running year round.
The optimum turbine often is able to operate 80% to 90% of the year.
|A typical microhydro site will cost $2,500 to
$10,000 per kW capacity to construct. Refurbishing of prior, abandoned
sites can be considerably cheaper. Typically, sites have a 50 to 100
year life cycle with only minor maintenance required (clean away debris
weekly, bearing replacement, etc.). When operated at 60% capacity, the
system will usually pay for itself in 3 to 10 years, and thereafter is pure
|The most efficient turbine wheel design depends
on the available head, specific speed of the turbine, and the kW produced.
Pelton wheel turbine is one of the simplest and most efficient designs for
high head micro-turbines. Microturbines may have a wheel diameter of 3", where
the largest dams (eg. Niagara Falls, James Bay Hydro, etc.) the turbines can
be 30 ft in in diameter or larger.