The hydropower is one of the most viable and constant renewable resource, as it requires a river with constant flow and little engineering trouble. If you have flowing water near your eco-friendly new home, consider installing a system that can provide you with years of continuous electricity.
The micro-hydropower plants use the energy of moving water in order to produce electricity and usually they can generate up to 100 kilowatts of power. This means they produce enough for a large eco-home, a farm or even a small resort. Imagine that if you own a hotel you can produce your own energy and you can also attract more tourists by promoting your eco-friendly solutions.
How a Micro-Hydropower system works
Micro-hydropower systems are usually run-of-the-river systems, which don’t require large storage reservoirs. The concept is so simple that anyone could install such a system: a portion of the river is diverted to a water conveyance (pipeline or channel) and the flowing water moves a turbine. The turbine spins a shaft which powers a generator and produces electricity.
The most important factor you have to take into consideration when planning to install a hydropower system is the location. You will need to measure 3 important distances so you can find out how much energy your system can generate:
- the flow
- the vertical distance between the intake point and the turbine (the ramp)
- the channel (pipeline) length
The greater the flow and the ramp – the greater the pressure of the water and therefore the more energy we get!
Now that we established the location of the system, we need a few basic components every micro-hydropower plant has:
- Water conveyance (channel, pipeline or pressurized pipeline);
- Turbine – transforms flowing water energy into rotational energy;
- Generator – transforms rotational energy into electricity;
- Regulator – it controls the generator;
- Wiring – delivers the electricity to your green home.
You can even find commercially available turbines and generators (sold in packages). But you have to be careful when matching the generator with the turbine speed.
Since you are such an eco-friendly person, I am sure you have questions about how a hydropower system would affect the environment. What happens to the natural course of the rivers? What about the fish?
Indeed, it implies a considerable environmental impact, as the water is channeled from its natural course into the pipeline; it travels through the turbine and then returns to its old way. But during this period of time, the main flow of the river is reduced and it can affect the biodiversity. In order for us to avoid a negative impact we have to control the flow we deviate and leave an acceptable quantity of water in the main course of the river.
Regarding the fish living in the river, the turbine isn’t very friendly (to say at least) with them. For this reason, you would have to install some barriers that prevent them from entering the channel.
Concluding, if we take some sensitive aspects into consideration (the position of the plant and the environmental impact) we could count on an energy resource that is cheap, sustainable and renewable.
A micro-hydropower plant can also be the perfect partner of a photovoltaic system (which uses solar energy) because, in many areas, during the winter the flow of the water is higher whereas the solar light is reduced, not to mention that it can also be linked with wind mills for buildings. It is a very viable solution for a perfect green home!