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Author Topic: Tiny hydro stream system  (Read 21317 times)
simonmcc
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« on: March 24, 2016, 11:20:01 PM »

I've just found this forum - loads of great information!

I have a small stream that flows through my property sourced from a well, the flow varies hugely over the year. I have used a barrel with the side cut out and some screening and have been able to extract between 2 and 4 litres per second from this stream, but this is a crude proof of concept and I'm sure I could reasonably capture more. (A little more )

On my property I can manage about 8 metres of head.

Having done the sums I know that at a push I might get 100w of energy out of this system, and I know that this is too little to really make it viable, but I like to tinker with things, and if I could get a constant 50-150w out of this, 24/7/365, I would be more than happy.

Has anyone done such a small project before? I also have the paradoxical situation where I don't want to waste money buying good stuff for a project that is not viable, but I know that if I use the wrong cheap stuff (eg generator) that the project will definitely not be viable. I already have an old motor that is generating 34v at 700m, so I was thinking of buying a pelton wheel, to measure the power I can actually get. All suggestions welcome
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Stuart Ian Naylor
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« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2016, 02:17:22 AM »

Nice to have a stream in your garden and you are never going to get anything mega worthwhile, but usable is possible.

Firstly its all about head height that water mills and turbines need a weir so that source and exit have a height difference so the mass can gain energy from it.

If you have 8m in your property then maybe knock a meter or two out of that and have the genset much higher than the flood plain, depth of stream flood safe..

If you have 8m head height then it sounds like you could have a bit of space to play with and you may fail on hugely profitable renewable generation, but you could do something extremely eco.

Loads of mad idea's come to mind, but I presume space is limited. I bet this one will create a torrent of discussion and looking forward to the ideas.

I saw a wicked sluice gate system that used a header pond/bog to provide a flood and drain system and I think that was the one they where growing cranberries in that system in a wetland permaculture environment (damned if I can remember the site, or its just my muddled memory). Flood and drain bog land is just amazingly fertile for the ecosystem and the stream is a delivery system.

The flood upped the flow rate in a stop/start system, also maybe in summer it will be dry but the cold and generally wet days offer more flow (always bugs me that flood defense don't diversify).

Ivan at Navitron is the man to speak to, but see what the suggestions are in a wider context.

My crazy idea is to diversify in a flood/drain header pool with raised beds that acts as a start/stop hydro reservoir.
Small scale but ecotastic.
 
« Last Edit: March 25, 2016, 04:13:27 AM by Stuart Ian Naylor » Logged
biff
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« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2016, 08:37:40 AM »

Good morning Simonmcc,
                      And welcome to the forum.An 8mtr head is not to be scoffed at and anything that you gain from your proposed hydro will always be welcome. Even a steady 100watts builds up in a battery bank and can be set  to power yard lights or emergency lighting,laptop charger.
  The required financial outlay has to be studied carefully and if you are anything like me and would love to do it, Just for the hell of it to find that even though it is not altogether such a sound financial gain,compared to the mains power, it does have its attractions because it leaves you independent  to a certain degree.
  Camillitech (Paul)and a few others here  have great experience in hydro and in your case
 3 ltrs a second averages 180 ltrs or 33gallons a minute. That fills a 1200 cage tank in 7 minutes, !!! You would have more than 100watts there if you could feed the flow from the well into a few cage tanks just below the well outlet and pipe it down to below your house if possible to improve the head, Perhaps in 60mm",
  I would certainly give it a go, Sounds a fantastic project and a great learning one at that. Go for it!.
                                               Good luck,  Biff
« Last Edit: March 25, 2016, 08:44:30 AM by biff » Logged

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johnrae
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« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2016, 09:44:12 AM »

Even if it is only 100w, that equates to 2.4kWh per day or the equivalent of running a bog-standard 3kW immersion heater for a constant 48 minutes

Strap a suitable heater element intimately to the side wall of a copper cylinder, cover in plenty of quality insulation and virtually all of the resistive heat will transfer into the water.

A little heat can go a long way if it's there constantly.
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Nickel2
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« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2016, 10:37:55 AM »

I'd love to have that in my garden, it would be half my electricity bill/consumption for life. It's worth doing to charge batteries for lighting, laptops and radios, then use the grid for bigger power applications. Please post pics as you go!
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simonmcc
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« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2016, 10:41:11 AM »

Folks, thanks for the encouragement so far - after I posted last night I went back through about 14 pages of threads, attempting to read as much as I could about small systems.

Just a couple more comments to clarify my capabilities-
- The well that feeds the stream is outside my property (across the road) but it feeds directly and only into the stream that flows to our property - hence me needing a screen to get the water. If I had direct access to the well that would have been even better!
- Financially, I'm not 100% concerned about an early break-even time, but I still think my maximum spend cannot be more than a few hundred quid
- Penstock - to get my 8m head (which I think is fully usable, even in flood) I need to run the penstock about 100m

I like the ideas of filling the cage - this would at least provide somewhere to store excess water at high flow periods, and then that energy could be used more slowly when there is less coming in - good idea! My only problem is where I would put the cage, as where my screen is currently is in quite a conspicuous place - it simply wouldn't be practical to put several cages there - nevertheless a great idea to think about. I'm already considering other locations on the property for a cage.

Keep the ideas coming  Cheesy
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brackwell
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« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2016, 12:46:40 PM »

By cage i presume you mean water storage tank/reservoir etc.  This could be in various forms and made to look like something else eg garden shed,decorative fish pond,tank for domestic oil storage etc.  The penstock could be 300mm plastic pipe (narrowed down for the turbine) and this would hold 70L/metre or 7000L for the 100m run and could be covered with grass/plants.

If 100w could be generated 24/7/365 then this equals 876kw/yr or about £130 of grid leccy. I have no idea if your 100w is realistic but think it needs to be up to 200w+ to make sense.  I would not consider batteries as the turbine output will largely be lossed in losses in the system.

At these kind of outputs it will be difficult to justify electronic control systems but one could consider a electronic shut off valve in the penstock controlled from the house to switch off at night etc.

I wish i had something like this to play with.
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simonmcc
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« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2016, 12:51:37 PM »

Thanks, yeah, I hadn't really thought about batteries etc, I was thinking of a small grid tie inverter, so the 100w would power part of the ~200-400w ambient use in my home, therefore never exporting to the grid, but reducing my bill by the equivalent amount. I have a 50w pump that runs 24/7 for my septic tank, so that would effectively run for free.
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simonmcc
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« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2016, 04:39:04 PM »

Some pictures, and the story so far:


First of all I had to construct some sort of screen to catch the water. I had a clean old 5 gallon jar that was in good shape, and I cut a hole in the side of it, and flapped the edge back to the bottom, to help water run over it. Then I used a £1 roll of plastic spoutin covering mesh from poundland and wrapped that round and round the barrel, to filter the water. The picture shows the barrel in the wheelbarrow, in progress.



Next I found a place where the stream had cut a natural channel into the ground over the years, and a natural place to build a bit of a dam. I build a dam using some old plastic bags to seal it, and some blocks I had lying around. The seal from the plastic bags is less than perfect, I would say up to 50% of the water was getting lost. I have since replaced it with a large sheet of black plastic, and there is much less water loss.


You can see from the picture that there is a good flow coming out the mouth of the barrel.


Then I put an old section of pipe over the mouth of the barrel, so I could put a graduated bucket below it to measure the flow.


More recently I also put a plastic water pipe to run the water to other locations, and being only a small pipe I get a very limited flow, but it was easy to keep an eye on to make sure my screen wasnt getting clogged. Seems to be fine so far.

The next expense is the penstock, and I considered various options, 63mm mains water pipe in a roll - advantage no joints, and flexible to run along the ground beside my fence, disadvantage - almost £200 per 50m roll. I also considered using regular 4" drain pipe (hard plastic underground sewer type pipe), and 4-6" poly pipe. Both have positives and negatives. I think the drain pipe is the cheapest, but obviously there are flexability issues there. Why is nothing simple?



Instead of investing a lot of money getting the water from A to B, I decided I could do some experimentation at the generation end, so I got an old 6m 4" pipe, and bought a 'T' piece and end cap. I drilled a 10mm hole in the T and put the pipe down a slope at the back of the garden. This showed me that even with 5m drop (6m pipe at an angle) the force of water is considerable.



My next planned step is to buy a pelton wheel, and attach it to an old perminant magnet motor I have, and see how that goes when attached to my pipe setup.

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biff
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« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2016, 06:40:10 PM »

I think you will be in the electricity producing business very shortly, fingers crossed!
                                                          Biff
                                           
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skyewright
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« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2016, 06:53:37 PM »

The next expense is the penstock, and I considered various options, 63mm mains water pipe in a roll - advantage no joints, and flexible to run along the ground beside my fence, disadvantage - almost £200 per 50m roll. I also considered using regular 4" drain pipe (hard plastic underground sewer type pipe), and 4-6" poly pipe. Both have positives and negatives. I think the drain pipe is the cheapest, but obviously there are flexability issues there. Why is nothing simple?
I have a vague recall of someone (billi?) using 4" drain pipe for a penstock - until something (a quick turn off?) caused a pressure wave which ruptured the pipe? However, even if I've recalled correctly the head may have been greater than yours?
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« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2016, 09:19:47 PM »

It may be worth looking at things such as washing machine pumps and other pumps to act as your turbine.
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JohnS
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« Reply #12 on: March 25, 2016, 09:20:47 PM »

As I understand it, brown drainage pipe is not UV resistant and has to be buried underground.  Black is ok.
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simonmcc
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« Reply #13 on: March 25, 2016, 09:47:26 PM »

The next expense is the penstock, and I considered various options, 63mm mains water pipe in a roll - advantage no joints, and flexible to run along the ground beside my fence, disadvantage - almost £200 per 50m roll. I also considered using regular 4" drain pipe (hard plastic underground sewer type pipe), and 4-6" poly pipe. Both have positives and negatives. I think the drain pipe is the cheapest, but obviously there are flexability issues there. Why is nothing simple?
I have a vague recall of someone (billi?) using 4" drain pipe for a penstock - until something (a quick turn off?) caused a pressure wave which ruptured the pipe? However, even if I've recalled correctly the head may have been greater than yours?

The thing that worrying me a bit about it is that the pressure or weight of water might push the pipes apart around the corner, so it might need buried anyway to keep it together. However I'd like to be able to set it up, get it all working, and bury it later, that would be my preference (commitment issues lol)

Edited to add: this is another reason why it would be nice to use pipe on a roll
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johnrae
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« Reply #14 on: March 25, 2016, 10:50:34 PM »

If you're going to use drain pipe then go for solvent rather than push-fit joints.
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