Saturday, October 6, 2012

Small Hydroelectric Plants

For generations water has been used as a source of energy by industry and by a limited number of utility companies. In the continental United States, most rivers and streams capable of producing huge amounts of hydroelectric power have been harnessed; however, this does not preclude the possibility of using mini-hydroelectric power as a source of energy supply for home or farm.

Harnessing a stream for hydroelectric power is a major undertaking. Careful planning is necessary if a successful and economic power plant is to result. State water laws and environmental concerns must be determined. Precise field data must be gathered to compare the amount of power that can be expected from a hydroelectric installation to the electrical requirements of the home or farm. Then detailed plans that consider both construction and maintenance can be drawn up.

Perhaps the greatest mistake made when considering small hydroelectric installations is the overestimation of a proposed plant’s capability. This bulletin will help you start the planning of a small power plant on a given stream of water. One of the first steps in planning is to measure the power potential of the stream. The amount of power that can be obtained from a stream depends on:

ü  the amount of water flow

ü  the height which the water falls (head)

ü  the efficiency of the plant to convert mechanical energy to electrical energy.

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