Micro Hydro Systems A basic overview of a hydro system with components explained

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If you have a suitable site, harnessing the energy in a stream or creek can be the most cost-effective way to make renewable electricity. Compared to the sun and wind’s variability, a stream’s flow is relatively consistent, making microhydro-electric system output the most predictable of all the renewable energy (RE) electrical systems. Hydro resources are also the most site specific, since your property must have a usable water source. If you are one of the lucky few with a stream running down your hillside, it’s the resource to assess first.

The first step in designing a microhydro system is to evaluate your water resource by measuring the head (vertical drop) and flow of your stream. (For detailed instructions, see Dan New’s article in HP104.) These two measurements are necessary to calculate the energy potential of your stream. The next step is to design a system that will effectively harness that potential.

A microhydro-electric system is made up of a number of components, not just the turbine. Hydro sites and end users’ needs vary, and a wide range of equipment and system configurations are available to properly match the conditions. This article will give you an overview of the components, and help you understand the different ways they can work together to make electricity from falling water.

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