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Best option for charging batteries with micro hydro?

 
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This brook runs through my property where I'll be moving off the power grid. I can access the site with a tractor/horse if necessary but would prefer that everything can be carried in by 2 people to protect the landscape.
I've purchased 2x 100Ah Lithium Iron Phosphate to run 12VDC (RV water pump, fence energizer, LEDs) and I'll be purchasing a 1000w PSW inverter to run the flatscreen and internet at the end of the day.
Hot water, heating and cooking non-electric. Generator to run tools occasionally.

I'm thinking hydro would be a better option than solar to charge these batteries at 47°N, is this correct?
What would be my best option?

I really like the idea of a waterwheel. Is either site sufficient? What changes would need to be made?
Would I be able to get say.. a 100w 12v low rpm motor spinning off this kind of application?

I'm also willing to lay up to 200ft of pipe, I could probably get 4-5ft drop. If necessary.

Thank you so much for your insight, thought i'd give this a shot before ordering solar panels
 
Posts: 125
Location: Elk Grove, CA
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Hi Carter,

Good looking creek, how does it do in the summer?

I’m no expert, but I’ll try and give you what help I can.

Your first logical starting point... Find out what you are allowed to do and how to do that legally. If that doesn’t fit yer plan, find out how much trouble you will get into when you get caught and then weigh the risks. If you do it legally, is there a way to register it with local government to establish a date (because that may allow you a grandfather exception should future laws change).

Second... Redundancy is your best friend. Backups are great, back ups for the backups are better and a few more backups never hurt anyone. Also, diversity, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Hydro, solar, wind, geothermal, harvesting methane from compost piles, etc. Diversify as much as you can and don’t attempt it all at once... Baby step your way there in nice, easy to chew, small bites and try to find a system that allows that incremental growth.

Research... YouTube has a lot of micro hydro videos, watch as many as you can. Then find out what is even possible to purchase, and go from there. Electric batteries degrade over time, consider creative alternatives (like using your renewable energy to pump water uphill to store for power generation later (not always possible on all land). Also consider redundancy for your batteries. (letting batteries sit in storage isn’t good, but storing the parts to make your own batteries when you need them is possible for some types of batteries, or plan to buy replacements as yours reach a certain level of degrade).

Power management... What happens when your systems generates too much power or not enough to meet needs (both can cause issues). A battery bank can only do so much, so it has to be sized right, but you also want a plan for if and when the battery degrades and/or fails.

Give everything plenty of space to cool and be safe from overheating and fire (electronic equipment generates heat and needs to cool... it needs to be protected from the elements as well every damned critter you can imagine that just wants a warm place on a cold day, but it needs enough airspace to cool. This isn’t always easy to balance, and porcupines and rats love to chew wire insulation, protect all wire at all times).

It’s not easy to be your own power company, but it can be nice at the same time. Hydro is nice because it is steady and runs night and day (unless you have it on seasonal waters, but even then, it’s reliable in the wet season (most are lower output but very consistent). Hydro is great at complimenting other systems like solar and wind (which are not as consistent but deliver higher output when they are strong). At 47°N, you got some mighty long days come summer, very good for solar but only if the land lets you. If you have some high ground, you could be prime for wind.

But your starting point is all based on what you can legally do and then based on what the location offers. Then availability, and so on. Approach it logically and your solutions will present themselves. You could also try to find someone you could hire to do it all for you. That person might not exist yet, and who knows, your experience might turn you into that person and offer an opportunity.

Good Luck!

 
Rocket Scientist
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Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
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Hi Carter;  
Great that you have some property!
I have lived 100% with micro hydro / solar for 35 + years now.  I will give you some insight about them.
I have to warn you that there is  a lot of money involved with setting up a hydro and the power output is much lower than you might think.
There is also the problem of transmitting 12 volt power very far (think 20' as very far)
Also a hydro must have a constant diversion voltage regulator.  A solar panel can be disconnected with no damage at any time.
A running hydro must always stay connected  and have a place to "dump" the power your battery's can not hold. That dump must be large enough to handle the entire output.
If you pipe your water 200' you will need large pipe 1.5"-4" to avoid friction line loss. Try using a 1/2" pipe and almost no water will come out the far end.
If you pipe your water you will need to have a way to use all the water that runs thru. Remember after it goes thru a micro hydro there is no velocity, it just falls to the ground.

Here is the specs on my hydro.   I have 1.5" line, it travels 2200' with over 300' of vertical drop.
I have 125 psi water pressure at the house.   I flow 3-5 gpm,  I receive a whopping 6-12 amps @12vt 24 -7
I am using a state of the art permanent magnet hydro from Harris Hydro, cost on it was over $1000.

In my opinion, your potential for hydro is low.
Costs/labor involved for the tiny output gained will not be cost effective.
I will also mention that wind power is the same as hydro power, it must have a constant diversion regulator.
Solar on the other hand is easy.  Panel prices are reasonable, I suggest buying more.






solar-hydro.JPG
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pollinator
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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I have been looking into micro/pico hydro for my property as well.  With current panel prices, it just makes better financial sense to buy 10x more panels to meet your winter needs than to do a hydro system.
 
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Location: Clackamas County, OR (zone 7)
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Hey Carter, I have also been off-grid with solar and hydro for a while now, and i will offer up my own experience, for what it is worth to you. I would say that solar power is the most logical place to start any off grid system. Even a modest system will crank out a lot of power with an hour of sun, and once you start to pay attention, you will probably realize that cloudy weather usually contains quite a few sunbreaks. Even in Oregon, I get plenty of power most of the year from 1.5kw of panels. The key is to know how much power you need, and then you can size your panels and storage to give you a couple days of reserve power to account for crappy weather. The batteries will be the most expensive system, so at first it might make sense to start small and rely on a generator to fill the gaps in your production. Kind of depends on how much budget you have.

Once you have a basic system up and running, and a little more experience, then you can think about adding on hydro or wind. The previous posts mentioned dump loads, and this is something to consider. I will say it is much more important with higher pressure systems that are capable of generating destructive speeds. The basic problem is that when the braking force of the generator is disconnected, the turbine (be it water or wind) will try and match the speed of the incoming fluid. Some systems will spin so fast they fly apart - but this is unlikely to be a problem for you, as you have high flow and low head. Honestly, with only a few feet of head, I suspect your power is going to be fairly limited. Throwing some numbers in a hydropower calculator comes up with 500gpm (.03m^3/s) falling 3 feet (1m) and 50% efficiency gives you about 150watts. Your best bet for that creek might be a water wheel. If you build it all yourself, you could keep a system like that down to a couple hundred bucks, but the output will pretty small. Still, the fact that it runs 24/7 is a plus, and if you think it sounds fun to build something like that, then I say go for it. For comparison, my system has a drop of 20 feet, and pushes through about 50gpm (I think). I am using a 400 foot long 4" penstock and a cross-flow turbine. I also have to transmit the power 500 feet, but I send it at about 45 volts, and then step it down through an MPPT charge controller. I get just about 100watts when everything is running smoothly. I also get a lot of exercise in the winter walking down to clean out my intake, which is poorly designed.

As for asking for permission, I wouldnt. A tiny system like this is not likely to cause any disruptions to your streams ecosystem, but the regulations may well be crippling.

Anyway, I wish you luck with your off-grid adventure, there is a bit of a learning curve, but it is pretty satisfying to be your own power company. I have only had one power outage in the last 8 years, and I was my only customer, so I was able to get power restored the same day!
 
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I'll have to agree with every other post here.  I looked into hydro and decided that solar was my best bet, and it has been.

Now I run two systems, a 48V one for my main dwelling, and a 24V satelite system for my workshop.

The first suggestion I would give you is to stop thinking in terms of 12V.  They are very limited, and the components higher priced then stuff designed for grid-ties.  High-voltage grid-tie panels are now dirt-cheap, and I have been buying 1000W of 250W panels for 220$. You then couple them to an MPPT controller that will transform the raw high solar voltage down to the battery voltage.  I run mine at 120VDC, and my Midnight controllers transform it down to battery voltage.  My panels are on rotating ground mounts as far as 135' away from the building.  The high DC voltage allows me to place  my mounts in optimal positions, and then transfers the power to the buildings with minimal voltage drop.

My first system was 12V and I was happy to phase it out.  If there are 12V must have items, you can get inexpensive DC-DC converters that drop the voltage from say 24V to 12V.

You can over-panel your system for low winter sun, but with rotating mounts, I can have arrays facing different directions in the middle of summer.  One array would be pointed SE, another S and another SW.  That way the noon-time peaks are cut down so the controllers aren't loaded with too many amps.

With my 24V system I can power all my power tools without issue.  My 48V system can power my 240VAC well-pump.  Both systems have pure sine-wave inverters that put out split-phase 120/240VAC.

 
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