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Guru
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Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

05/29/2007 8:40 PM

Hello all,

Here's an idea I've been considering for quite some time now. I've been thinking about buying (or building) a retirement home right on the banks of a fast moving stream. Being the tinkerer that I am, I am thinking about powering the house with a water wheel powered generator (for heat & power). If it's feasible the benefits are, of course, tremendous; free power, non-polluting, consistent energy production, would keep my wife (and me) from griping about the high cost of energy, etc.

I say consistent because I'm looking for a large enough stream that is fast moving enough that freezing over is unlikely. I also say consistent in relation to the unpredictability of say, wind power (ya gotta have wind), solar power (ya gotta have sun).

I'm considering possibly a 10KV - 12KV generator with a feedback loop to control the pitch on the water wheel blades for steady RPMs based on load variations.

I feel sure others have tried this but I'm just not familiar with any.

I'd like to know is this idea is feasible and/or practical. Are there downsides to this that I may not have thought of? All input is welcome.

Not sure if this post is best on EE or ME forum. I'm sure there's bleed over to both.

Thanks,

John

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Anonymous Poster
#1

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

05/29/2007 9:28 PM

Check out Pelton water wheels: http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bl_lester_pelton.htm

They are very effecient working from a necked down pipe down stream (lots of pressure), and I would assume could have the pipe inlet beneath seasonal ice. There is a working example at Wilder state park in California just north of Santa Cruz on the coast. http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=549#

Of course there are more efficient generators now compared to 100 years ago. I would look at maybe using a clutch versus varying water flow. Let me know how you do with this.

Charlie

cdp20@hotmail.com

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Guru
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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

05/29/2007 10:12 PM

Hi Charlie,

Thanks for the input. Haven't yet worked out details of a water wheel/paddle system. I didn't see anything relative to water wheels on the State Parks link.

I'm not sure how a clutch would be used in such an application. Perhaps an infinitely variable gearset might be an option though to control RPMs. Would still require a feedback loop to control it.

Regards,

John

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Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: outside Cincinnati
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#20
In reply to #2

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

07/03/2007 9:37 PM

Johnjohn

Check out the possibility of using an eddy current coupling with tach feedback to the current controller. That would keep your altenator at a constant speed for production and cycling control

Ric

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Guru
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#3

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

05/30/2007 3:29 PM

down side you got to have rain

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Power-User
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#4

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

05/30/2007 11:23 PM

Hi Johnjohn

I have seen a couple off plants belt driven from Large water wheels in NZ. Dont know how successfull they are at controling the voltage. Have a Look at the following sites or Google microhydro power and there is some good stuff from Wim Klunne there.

info@hydrogeneration.co.uk

www.british-hydro.org.uk

www.itdgpublishing.org.uk

turbin@cargo-craft.se

www.microhydropower.com

Hope some of these help and good luck

__________

Pete

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Guru
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#6
In reply to #4

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

05/30/2007 11:42 PM

Hi Pete,

Very useful info in those links. Lots of stuff to read and ponder.

Thanks,

John

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Anonymous Poster
#5

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

05/30/2007 11:26 PM

Greetings,

You may look at a hydro mounted in the basement of a retirement home on the Blackstone River in Rhode Island, I've forgotten the name of the town.

At initial installation there was a vibration/noise from the hydro that kept the old folks awake so they couldn't run the powerplant at nite until it was fixed.

Helpful ?

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Guru
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#7
In reply to #5

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

05/30/2007 11:43 PM

Not really.

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Anonymous Poster
#8
In reply to #7

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

05/31/2007 1:16 AM

I built just such a system years ago. I used a truck alternator with built in regulator. the system put out about 100w 24 hrs a day which kept a set of batteries charged - 2.4 KwH per day was plenty for the lights which were modified truck or car lightbulbs (Halogen).

My biggest problem was the gearing. I used a 4 foot wheel which rotated quite slowly, hence i needed quite a reduction. I wound up using a 28" bicycle wheel tied directly to the waterwheel and a home made leather belt running to the alternator input shaft (1/2") which did the trick without much gear loss.

Doing it again I'd use a small wheel, 2' max dia which would quadruple the speed and allow an overshot wheel (I only had 3' head) overshot waterwheels are about 98% efficient and they can be throttled for speed control. or I'd make up a turbine in a piece of 4" pipe buried in the dam wall or lower downstream.

lessons learned were:

  1. get as much head as you can! even if you need a hydralic ram!
  2. Put the batteries and generator close together but AWAY from the streams flood zone!
  3. keep the velocity of generator components as high as possible with minimal gearing - you can build a generator on a large diameter wooden disk by sticking permanent magnets on it and a single brake caliper like coil set. you can get good permanent magnets from old speakers.
  4. Use a chest freezer type fridge and use the hot side to heat the house.
  5. Only use electricity where you have to. direct drive for things like washing machines, drills, lathes etc and a fuel stove for cooking. I was about to try using hot water or steam from the stove to drive my kerosene (parrifin) fridge when the stoves boiler blew and took the fridge and the wall with it... I wasn't allowed further experiments in the house....Women just don't understand I tell you!!!

Don't tell the wife what your up to!

Good Luck

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Guru
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#16
In reply to #8

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

05/31/2007 10:56 PM

Thanks Guest,

Lots of good info.

"get as much head as you can! even if you need a hydralic ram! "

I don't follow you on the hydraulic ram part.

John

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Commentator
Popular Science - Weaponology - RaoTR

Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 71
#9

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

05/31/2007 2:05 AM

Its a fesible idea if you have a stream running closeby on perennial basis. You can consider micro turbines or mini turbine to generate power. The power generation is essentially a function of pressure, velocity and the head. Depending upon what you have as flow rate and flow velocity, you can chose the right turbine for this application. There are commercial turbines available for small power generation from hydraulic energy. The downside is that you will need to have perennial water source. I can send you some information on the calculations etc. Leave me your e-mail address.

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Anonymous Poster
#11
In reply to #9

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

05/31/2007 8:38 AM

Hello RAOTR,

Would you send me the information too. I am looking for a small system too.

My email is anrt12142005@yahoo.com

Thanks,

NQC

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Commentator
Popular Science - Weaponology - RaoTR

Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 71
#19
In reply to #11

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

06/01/2007 11:27 AM

Dear NQC,

I will send the info. I am travelling and will be able to e-mail on Monday.

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Anonymous Poster
#21
In reply to #9

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

12/21/2007 9:12 PM

Please, I too would like the links to good source of generators for I too plan to build a off grid system to power my shop. waya1950@yahoo.com

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Participant

Join Date: May 2007
Location: near philadelphia, pa
Posts: 1
#10

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

05/31/2007 7:36 AM

a good friend named ron mcleod is very big in low head micro hydro (30+ years). there is some stuff about him on the web but his web site is down now because he is currently moving from pa to v. he designs, builds and installs some very cool water turbines and wheels (i have worked with him on some of these). if you want to get in touch with him send me an email at mking@orlotronics.com and i will get you his new phone number/email

kind regards

michael king

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Anonymous Poster
#12

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

05/31/2007 8:46 AM

Home Power magazine has articles on the subject very frequently. There's also a book called "MicroHydro" which is good, but generally less informative than a year's subscription to Home Power.

Most approaches to going completely off grid use either solar+wind or solar+water, depending on location.

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Anonymous Poster
#13

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

05/31/2007 6:52 PM

"Not sure if this post is best on EE or ME forum. I'm sure there's bleed over to both."

Actually Civil are the guys you really want.

Anywhere in the temperate zone you're likely to experience large
differences in surface water flow. You're going to need a dam.

"I'm considering possibly a 10KV - 12KV generator with a feedback loop to control the pitch on the water wheel blades for steady RPMs based on load variations."

Average consumption is not likely to be anywhere near that. Again, a dam with a
smaller wheel powering an alternator, battery/inverter system with that or
slightly higher max. capacity, (15KVA or so), is likely to prove far more practical
and maintainable. (KISS principle + available hardware instead of trying to engineer
what amounts to a large, (for self maintainance), turbine as a one-off).

"I feel sure others have tried this but I'm just not familiar with any."

Quite a few have. You'll be hearing from them I'm sure.

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Active Contributor

Join Date: May 2007
Location: Nevada City California
Posts: 18
#14

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

05/31/2007 9:54 PM

Hey JohnJohn,

In addition to the other excellent ideas already offered check out these two manufacturers of small hydro turbines -

Harris Hydroelectric (available through retailers such as www.SierraSolar.com)

or, for larger turbines

Canyon Industries http://www.canyonindustriesinc.com/

Keep in mind that, depending on the stream and the local jurisdiction overseeing the waterway, there may be rules and regulations you'll need to "wade through" (pun intended).

Also, to accomodate different flows at different times of the year, I designed my powerhouse to "tilt up" so I can access my Harris Hydro turbine to change jet sizes. Mine has two jets so I can also run it with just one jet during low flow season and two jets during winter when the flow is much higher.

Best of luck!

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Guru
Popular Science - Cosmology - New Member United States - Member - New Member

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#15
In reply to #14

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

05/31/2007 10:51 PM

Thanks EnergyGuy,

I appreciate the links. Apparently the 2nd one is under construction or something.

From looking at the picture of the Harris Hydro, how is the water actually channeled into the pipe which feeds the jets? Is there a funnel type collector below the dam or what?

Good to know about the possibility of rules & regulations. Didn't think about that.

John

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Active Contributor

Join Date: May 2007
Location: Nevada City California
Posts: 18
#17
In reply to #15

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

06/01/2007 12:26 AM

Hi John,

I'm sorry about that second link - they must have changed their site address since I last visited! It's now here:

http://www.canyonhydro.com/

The water in my system is collected through a "screened hat" over a 3" PVC pipe that sits vertically in the middle of a collection pond I built at the outlet to a spring at the top of my property. The pipe is then routed underground to the bottom of my property where the hydroturbine is located.

I use a 48VDC turbine and a 48/96 VDC converter (aka constant voltage regulator) at the powerhouse to double the voltage in order to cut amperage in half .... this allows for an affordable (ie smaller) conductor size for the long trip up to the room housing the charge controller, inverter, batteries, disconnects, etc.

The screen and (pre-screen) barrier design I use needs to be improved to minimize maintenance (periodic cleaning of leaves and pine needles from the screens). I've heard Don Harris (of Harris Hydro - I think he's located near Santa Cruz California) has a nice design but I haven't yet tried to reach him to get details. You might try searching Home Energy Magazine back issues on the net too - I think I may have seen something about screen design in the magazine a while back. A Google search trying combinations of a few choice words might also work.

Have fun with it!

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Power-User

Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: outside Cincinnati
Posts: 116
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#24
In reply to #17

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

03/27/2008 6:07 PM

Pertaining to your water collection at the surface of your pond.

1. On top of the 3" pvc riser place a "t" with a piece of pipe in the top to keep it well above the water level. Cap this off with a screen to prevent things from dropping into the stack.

2. Insert a short nipple into the horizontal outlet and put a 90 degree L on it pointing down with a length of pipe extending down with screen on the open end under the water. This will prevent floating material from entering the riser and clogging the turbine nuzzle.

Hope this will help with the floating needles leaves etc.

Ric

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Power-User

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#18

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

06/01/2007 1:28 AM

Johnjohn; I have read several of the replys to your question,and may have another suggestion. This stream you are trying to harness, Is it navagable? If not, how about floating your waterwheel on the water? Make a drum any diameter and length you want ( I'm thinking of something like one of those 350 gallon LP gas tanks) with 3" tall vanes welded to the outside to act as paddles and a shaft on each end in bearings. Float the drum on arms so it can float up and down as the water level changes through out the year and run a hydraulic pump and lines to shore to a hydraulic motor to turn your generator. Again as with another of the bloggers you would probably have to do some gearing. You live far enough south that much of a freez up shouldn't be of great concern.If you can find a place that sells old military equipment, there used to be a nice 10 KW engine driven generator that could be powered that way. (I got out of the military in 1969 so I'm sure things have changer since then.) Keep us posted as to what and how you do.

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Anonymous Poster
#22

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

01/09/2008 5:13 PM

Hi, I saw a floating water wheel recently in Farm Show magazine. Also, check out the small hydro workshop put on by Solar Energy International, as well as the european guide to small hydro development. One of the key things I had to learn, as a hydro developer, is a flow duration curve, which shows what the flow is at a certain percentage of the time. Design flow is not the same as all of the flow in the creek -many jurisdictions out here in the west have mandated a minimum flow, so you can only take a percentage out of any stream course. Small turbines are great, I have seen one of Ron Macleod's nautilus turbines, and it is beautiful, especially for a low head site. Another good site for hydro controls is Thomson and Howe in Canada. Canyon uses them for their off grid installations. I have found that unless you are making DC power, you need to shunt extra power to keep the turbine at a steady speed, otherwise wicket gates or other control mechanisms can bind up or get clogged with trash. Screening your intake is key - check out Hydroscreen's site - the guy's name is Bob Weir (no kidding) Best of luck.

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Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 2
#23

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

03/27/2008 10:47 AM

Hi! I'm toying with a design for a floating water wheel that would be tethered to a tree in our creek to float over a perpetually deep spot and to generate electricity. The depth of the water varies widely, so it would have to be able to rise and fall. Also, during flash floods we sometimes get huge battering rams of logs that "fly" down the creek, almost like balilstic missiles, so this contraption would have to have some sort of protection guarding the wheel.

I recently saw on "A Nation of Inventors" an electric generator built by two women for installation at the base of revolving doors. It was very uncomplicated, which got me started thinking about this project. I'd looked into water turbines but only found the advice that I should have a two-foot drop. I don't have that, but I still have nearly perpetual water flowing by our house.

I'm toying with the idea of mounting the wheel on pontoons now, but I'd still have to have some sort of screen to keep debris out of the wheel. I like to build stuff from already existing contraptions so I'm thinking of modifying a ceiling fan. My problems also involve figuring out how to mount it onto pontoons that are rigid enough, solid enough, yet light enough to float with the wheel hanging down into the water by a few inches, say, attaching cup-like dealies on the ends of the fan blades, for example.

Any ideas would be welcome. I'm going to web-surf for pontoons. Or maybe a kayak that I could cut the floor out of? Or one of those paddlewheel floaters you can rent at the park for "bicycling" across a pond or lake? Whenever I try to think of building it from scratch myself I run into all sorts of problems such as waterlogging for wood or plywood; or how to make styrofoam tough enough to stand battering and fastening the wheel to? Besides attaching magnets to the blades, to spin across copper windings, I prefer to try to think of off-the-shelf components which already have the properties that I'm searching to fulfill.

I'm new here -- having found you by web surfing. I hope I can get feedback, ideas, and general-type support here. I'll try to update you, if that's OK with you, on new stuff I find over the coming year. :)

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Anonymous Poster
#25

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

02/01/2009 10:39 PM

I build water wheels for a living and often hear this question. If you're still looking for info about using a water wheel make electricity check out http://www.ironhorse.citymax.com/hydroelectric.html That is where I post useful links for electric production and spiral pumps.

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Guru

Join Date: Nov 2007
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#26

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

03/14/2009 12:07 PM

All the comments make we wish I could do the same. Thanks to all for the info they gave as I can use it in a story I am writing.

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Anonymous Poster
#27

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

08/08/2009 8:49 PM

It was done during the Bosnian conflict. The fighting stopped for awhile and people scrambled to get electric power for contact with the outside world, ask our soldiers who were there.

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Anonymous Poster
#28

Re: Feasibility of water wheel powered generator?

11/30/2009 10:59 PM

Use the generated power for Incandescent lights, electric hot water, electric heat and electric stove (if you disconnect its clock)which do not care about frequency or if its AC or DC. Use commercial power for motors, appliances with motors or electronic and all electronics(TVs, computers, microwaves, etc.). These require a stable power source. This will help keep cost down and prevent damage to expensive components. You will also save because your generator can be smaller. If you plan on selling your power the cost of your system will go up greatly and it has to be licenced and federally inspected. It will have to meet their standards for frequency, voltage and amperage stability.

Good luck

Michael

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