How does hydro power work?
You might already be familiar with the concept of renewable energy and probably know that hydro power comes from water, but just how does the process that converts your water supply into electricity work?
Running water creates force, which can be tapped into in order to create power. It is possible to set up a micro hydro generator if your property is close to a stream or waterway.
These systems usually work by diverting a portion of the stream or river into a pipe system which then sends it to a micro-hydro turbine and generator. The water is then returned to the source, meaning there is a very low impact on the environment.
While most Australian hydro turbines collect water from the source, some are suspended in large streams.
Most hydro power systems will feature an allowance for "feed stock", which is a small dam located as high as possible above the turbine. It should include a filter to stop leaves, twigs and fish from entering the pipe that takes the water to the turbine.
This pipe needs to be as straight as possible and have a large diameter to prevent any friction from slowing down the flow of water.
The generator will either run electricity directly to the house or will charge batteries before the water is put back in the stream.
How much power is produced?
These systems could help you see a drop in your electricity prices since they allow you to supply your own property with power rather than solely purchasing electricity off the grid.
The amount produced will depend on the flow rate and head.
Flow rate is the amount of water that comes though the system and is usually measured in litres per second. It is best to measure this before you plan to put a system in. The higher the flow rate, the more energy you will be able to produce.
Head refers to the vertical distance from which the water falls. It must be higher than the turbine location and the larger the height, the more push that will be created on the blades of the turbine.
The flow rate and head calculations can help you to work out which kind of turbine will suit your needs best. If you are going to install one of these systems, make sure you get expert advice.
You will need to fit it in a water source that has a steady year-round flow of water and a good drop in height over a horizontal surface. Providing the water flow is maintained and uninterrupted, this kind of system can provide a more constant flow of electricity than wind or solar generation.
Despite high initial capital costs, hydro power generators have low running costs that result in savings where your electricity prices are concerned.
Posted by Liam Tunney.