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Case Study: Building Your Own 20kW Hydroelectric Power Plant

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Alexander Wolfe
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80/20 Rule
Alexander Wolfe   11/16/2011 8:17:03 AM
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This interesting case study spotlights the old rule that most great engineering efforts are 80% perspiration (actually, I think it's 90%) and 20% technical smarts. This project simply wouldn't have happened without all that digging, building, and dirt moving.

Rob Spiegel
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Connected to the grid
Rob Spiegel   11/16/2011 12:04:44 PM
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Great idea. Getting tied into the grid seems to be an important factor here. Saves the whole problem of storage. The perspiration will probably pay for itself in time, since the foundation is the least likely part of this power plant to fail over time. 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Connected to the grid
Ann R. Thryft   11/16/2011 12:16:42 PM
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I agree, Rob, this sure eliminates the storage problem. And it's heartening to read that the minimum for generating hydroelectric power is only a two-foot drop and two gallons per minute. That's a lot less than I would have guessed.

I've often wondered if we could generate power from the creek in back of our house. At least part of the year, it fulfills those minimum requirements. 

Charles Murray
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Micro
Charles Murray   11/16/2011 1:13:45 PM
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If renewables are going to make a significant impact, a certain percentage of the power and a certain percentage of the storage will have to happen on the micro level. This is a great effort and it's a perfect example of what can happen at that micro level.

Lauren Muskett
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Re: Connected to the grid
Lauren Muskett   11/16/2011 2:53:26 PM
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This case study is interesting and a good read. Even though it took a lot of effort and time they are already seeing a return on their investment, which is always a good thing. 

letsthink
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The numbers don't add up;
letsthink   11/16/2011 3:15:45 PM
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Two gallons per minute is a far cry from; 

average of 40 cubic feet per second flowed through the pond, making it a marginally feasible hydroelectric project

So now everybody is getting all fired up to dump two gallons, let it run down into another bucket, then dump that water back up to the top and expect to make the electric meter run backwards!!

 

 

Dave Palmer
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Re: The numbers don't add up;
Dave Palmer   11/16/2011 3:50:20 PM
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@letsthink: I agree with you that the numbers don't add up.  If 40 cubic feet per second of water (18,000 gallons per minute) falling 10 feet generates 20 kW, then 2 gallons per minute falling 2 feet should generate about 1/90,000 as much power, or 0.2 W.  Maybe you could make a LED light up with this.

letsthink
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Iron
Re: The numbers don't add up; But it's cool
letsthink   11/16/2011 6:00:17 PM
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the big system earns;

20KW ~= $2/hour == $17000 per year if it runs 24/365;  pretty nice!

The other cool thing is that the Dad figured this out long ago, and the sons discovered it and made it happen!  Nice one!

Sawmill Engineer
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Iron
Details, please!!
Sawmill Engineer   11/16/2011 9:34:20 PM
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What wasn't clear to me is if they generated single phase or three phase power.  Why the three motors?  15hp is about equal to 20kW, so any one motor could have been a generator.  Can anyone fill in the blanks here?

Also, I'm curious what prompted the report--it does read suspiciously like an Automation Direct ad....

But a very interesting read. 

Jon.

 

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Micro
Beth Stackpole   11/17/2011 6:44:13 AM
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I agree that there needs to be support and commitment at the micro level. The challenging economic climate of the last few years has definitely fanned the flames of the local movement and a do-it-yourself mentality. Perhaps that will translate into more people attempting projects as ambitious as this one.

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