Automation & Motion Control

Case Study: Building Your Own 20kW Hydroelectric Power Plant

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Re: Details, please!!
dougspair   12/7/2011 8:21:57 PM
...try again with the watts to horsies...as one horse is 746 watts...so a 15 horse motor would be around 10 KW....

  Article says 3 of the 15 horse motors...so yes...about 20KW...if all goes well.

  Then, to get the buy-back...I'm assuming the generator must be exactly 60 Hz...?

I've worked at a couple small (30-40) Mega-watt Bio-Mass plants...the on-line syncro is extremely important...and...I'd assume this set-up here in the article has at least a transfer switch of some kind...? That is one of the first things any hydro or PV set-up requires. Otherwise I would think you could end up with utility power running your motors and pumping the water backwards...but then, I could be wrong....

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Re: Building your own power plant
renuengineer   12/7/2011 10:01:14 PM
My admiration for all the hard work and ingenuity! 

Here in Michigan (and in most states I would think) the DNR would be all over this.  Also FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) claims jurisdiction and requires that a hydro have a license even with the tiniest stream generated electricity if it is grid interconnected.  These two entities would easily double the cost of the project even at this small scale.  I would like to know how you avoided these burdens.

A lot of people have trouble conceptualizing the induction aspect of a motor/generator.  An induction machine delivers the nameplate rated hp as a motor at the nameplate rated amount of slip below synchronous rpm and, in turn, will generate the rated equivalent electricity as a generator at the same amount of slip above synchronous rpm.  An electric motor is not "synchronized" at start up - that is just the condition under which it delivers maximum torque because it is at maximum slip.  The line sets the voltage, frequency and phase relation.  The induction machine simply uses those properties to operate without need for complex controls, regulation and phasing.

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Re: Building your own power plant
Froese   12/10/2011 9:56:10 PM
Thank you, renuengineer for that explanation of how induction generation works; I couldn't have done it better!

Re: FERC, they don't involve themselves with individual installations this small. In South Carolina, our department of Health and Environmental Control does regulate dams & reservoirs, but our lake had already been in existence for over 100 years. The utility company was satisfied with some cursory drawings and assurance that we were entirely induction-based. The only official inspection was that of the county building department.

N. Christopher Perry
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Re: lets check the math
N. Christopher Perry   2/6/2012 7:02:23 PM
You're numbers look spot on.  At that scale, standard induction motors might achieve 70%-80% efficiency, and the turbine/penstock losses are in that range as well.

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Another self designed and built 20kW Micro Hydro
Honders   2/10/2012 7:55:41 PM
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Wow! great job!

I have yet to connect our Micro Hydro to the grid. Except for a few hours of testing, when I discovered what 'absolute value' metering meant, we have been running autonomously since commissioning 2006. I used pumps as turbines and 3 phase motors as single phase generators to cut costs. I don't think I gave up any efficiency at all since I'm getting a bit more than my initial calculations indicated. NY just passed the net-metering law for under 25kW hydro, so we'll be hooking up soon.

Syncing induction generators of a few tens of KW to each other or the power-line is not a problem as long as they are within a few RPM or Hz of each other. 

Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRl0ztxn094


Happy Hydro


Aldo Agraz
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Aldo Agraz   3/22/2012 3:13:21 AM
This is a very good work! I wonder if this is affordable for developing countries like Mexico or Latin America where there is good potential for micro hydroelectric generation, how expensive is the system and where can I purchase one? Thanks

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Re: so there is such thing as a free lunch!
garyg1   4/4/2012 9:49:49 AM
You are absolutely correct. There's little more than .001 hp available from water @ 2 GPM dropping 2 feet. If this was able to produce 20 Kw we'd have ourselves a nice perpetual motion machine! I think that the heading of the article is  misleading. The article itself is worthy.

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Re: 80/20 Rule
ChrisP   4/5/2012 12:55:34 AM
Design News asked for people to moderate and presumably add comments to their web site.  You had to make a certain number of posts to remain in the system and to receive a stipend or whatever it was called.  I get the feeling that this thread is more about maintaining a posting record than making real comments about an idea that is impractical in almost every state.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: 80/20 Rule
Rob Spiegel   4/5/2012 4:19:16 PM
The idea may or may not be impractical, but the comments are entusiastic. Those who comment on the Design News site are passionate about their views. I think that's very clear in this thread as well as the other comment threads.

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Re: Building your own power plant
nyeng   4/11/2012 10:55:29 AM
I applaud this project from a technical and ingenuity standpoint. 

However,  I tend to agree with the pessimism on the regulatory stuff.  Here in NY, the environmental hurdles as well as the federal & state energy commisions/authorities and utilities would make it nearly impossible.  The thousands you would have to spend on attorneys, permits, fees, and political contributions to make it happen legally could buy you electric power from the utility for a hundred years or better.  I think in this state the only thing attempting such a project would get you is legal trouble and the related fines and attorney fees.

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