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Anyone doing micro-hydro?
I've spent the last year trying to learn everything I can about using micro-hydro on our small farm. We have a year round stream with good flow but minimal head. During the winter, the water is flowing but under a foot of ice. We are located in the mountains of Colorado at 8000' elevation.
Does anyone have experience with micro-hydro in a similar situation?
What's the elevation change on the stream through your property, and what is the distance?    Does all of your property slope towards the stream?  Love to see some photos of an 8000" farm.
We have about 600' of the stream on our property with about a 10' - 12' drop along that distance. Our home is near the end of the stream flow. Most of the property actually slopes away from the stream but that works well for our irrigation needs.
We have alittle more information about the farm on our website:
www.fleurcreekfarm.com .

You can do a lot with a 10' fall. 

Some ideas:

Construct an aqueduct to carry the water mostly level until there is enough vertical space to put in a 4 - 6' overshot water wheel.

Use a ram pump to get water up to an elevated storage, then use that potential energy supply to run water wheels, compress air, refrigeration

Put up a dam, grow fish, shrimp, crayfish, veggies aquaponic-style, use the outlet of the dam to still get your power.

Do all 3

I'm sure there are a lot of other potential uses with that large an energy supply.
Hey, thanks for your thoughts. Some good ones there.
Since we are in Colorado, everything to do with water must go through the state water court. It can takes years and thousands of dollars and still might be denied. But if we can come up with a plan that does not divert water from the stream, we might have a chance.  The aqueduct or pipeline idea would probably not fly. Some kind of water wheel in the creek might be approved but we can't imagine how it would work in the water with all the ice and snow.
Please keep the ideas flowing! I know someone has already done what we need to do.

Thanks to all!
Howzabout one of those things that floats in the river/stream with the paddles and the generator.  No pipes.  Less government hassle.

We have definitely been looking at some type of "water wheel" system but have not yet come up with a solution to the problems faced in water with a foot of ice over the flowing water. A system like this would probably only usable in warm weather.
I'm starting to investigate solar ponds as an energy source.  It may work for you too since you'd just draw the water out of the river once without any permanent modifications to the river.
In Colorado it is illegal to remove water from a stream or river. Creating a pond would require a lengthy process through the state water court and probably would not be approved due to the evaporation loss. Water in the West is serious business!
What's  a "solar pond"?
Here's the wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_pond

Basically it's a pond that is 4 feet or more deep, with two layers in it.  The bottom layer has about 20% salt, the top layer is fresh water.  Eventually you end up with a salty bottom layer, a transition zone, and a top mostly fresh layer.

It works like this:

Sun shines on the surface, the energy is absorbed by the bottom of the pond.  The cool part is the density difference.  Because the salt water is heavier than the fresh water, it is prevented from moving throughout the vertical layers of the pond. 

If it were all salty or all fresh, it would absorb heat, then convect it back to the atmosphere through the surface over time.  But because the bottom water doesn't move, it just builds and builds (up to a point).  So, you have a bottom layer that is somewhere in the neighborhood of 150-200 degrees F, and a top layer that is around the ambient air temperature.

Now you have a relatively constant source of heat differential, and you can use that to drive a heat exchanger, a fluidyne pump, or a turbine.  Personally, I'm interested in power generation.

In terms of area required for a given amount of power, it's fairly low efficiency.  Theoretical limits are about 17%.  But digging a hole, putting in some insulation and a liner is pretty cheap.

Let's say between the actual pond and your turbine, you have 8% efficiency.  The sun shines down at 1 kW/square meter.  The average home in America uses something like 5 kW hrs per day. 

So, with some math... 1 kW/sq m * pi*r^2 sq m * 8 / 100 * 4 sun hrs / day = 5 kW hrs...

r = 2.23 m
d = 14.6 ft.

So, if you have a 15 ft pond, you could power the average American home forever with occasional top-ups of water and salt, and doing some maintenance on a turbine.
I've seen a couple of micro-hydro setups. 

And there is always this odd thing about needing to bleed off the excess electricity.  It's too bad that there cannot be some system that supports the ponding of water and you could just run enough water through to use and what you don't use stays in the pond.

OTOH:  I met a fella with micro hydro and he said that he had enough power to power ten to twenty homes.   I thought that was really interesting:  imagine that you have a freaky abundance of electricity?  Unlimited electric heat, electric cooking, electric hot water, run your lights as long as you want. 

That would be bizarre.

Of course that's what we're really looking to accomplish, isn't it? Don't we all have this sort of strange fixation with getting something for free and be unchained from a bill, no matter how trivial?
In response to the original poster, since you can't take any water in any form, maybe an undershot water wheel would be best. 
How would you keep a water wheel functioning in the winter? Do you have any examples or photos of an undershot water wheel?
Here's an example of one:


In the winter you would probably wouldn't be able to use it.  Someone mentioned those in-stream turbines.  If the turbine is sited on the bottom of the river, it will continue to work year round as long as it stays below the ice level.
Thanks for the great link and information. I plan to follow-up on this.
In the winter there is often a lot more water than in the summer.  And while still water freezes readily, fast water tends to keep moving.

I wonder if one were to build a bit of an insulated shed around the water wheel if that might help in keeping it from getting iced up.


fleurcreekfarm wrote:
In Colorado it is illegal to remove water from a stream or river. Creating a pond would require a lengthy process through the state water court and probably would not be approved due to the evaporation loss. Water in the West is serious business!

And I bet saltifying a pond would be even harder to get approved
The Colorado, isn't that the river that dries up before it reaches the ocean?  We're talking about a heavily over-used resource here, and I appreciate your looking for appropriate ways to use it without abusing it.

Ernie's lived on a homestead with micro-hydro here in Oregon; he first suggested a millrace, but that raises the same problems with removing water from the stream.

You may be able to do a small generator in a culvert or pipe, sunk under the water level at a point where it's flowing strong and deep.  A screw-type turbine might work.  You won't get forced-water speeds out of it, but you can siphon off some of the flow speed and get some power for your needs. 

Storage is the big issue with alternative power: battery banks are expensive.    Dams are the obvious answer; stored water keeps a long time, except for evaporation and warming, and you can even use excess power to pump some of the water back up for re-use.  The hydro-power dams on the Columbia serve as a reserve for time of peak demand.
But they're hell on fish, and on a stream's ecology.

  Are you mitigating your needs for winter heat with passive solar too?  You can get some fantastic sun exposure at altitude, and if you're getting that much ice I imagine you have some sparkly-clear nights and days.
  Solar heating of black pipes can get you hot water, which is a good thermal battery for heating other things too. 
  Any chance of working with wind at that elevation?

But you asked about micro-hydro.  Good luck with that project.

-Erica Wisner
I saw an article sometime back about how to do something similar to what you are talking about. In the article they ran a pipe up stream a ways and brought it down to the water wheel which was near the water then when the water exits the water wheel it goes back into the stream. The water wheel is also housed in a building to keep from freezing It is a form of slew way ( I think that is what it is called) were they divert part of the water to run a water wheel and then it return back to the river.
I have been trying to find the proper article (or video) of this is done but have been unsuccessful so far. But this would be for a stream or river that comes down a pretty steep hill and you are just pulling the amount of water out to fill the pipe and divert it to our water wheel so that it is not actually running in the water bed but all of the water is returned to the source once it has gone through our wheel. Oh by the way the term I was looking for earlier was a sluice way.
This link might help: http://ludens.cl/paradise/turbine/turbine.html

A guy in south america did this really cool lots of pictures!
Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more ... richsoil.com/wd-gardening.jsp

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