Living off the Grid, on Water Power

When you think of living off the grid, you often think of solar power. But if you’ve got a good head, and enough flow, water power can provide a much more consistent flow of electrons. All it requires is a little bit of engineering, epic amounts of manual labor, and some tricks of the trade, and you’ll have your own miniature hydroelectric power plant.

[Homo Ludens], the playful ape, has what looks like a fantastic self-sufficient home/cabin in a beautiful part of Chile. His webpages are a tremendous diary of DIY, but the microhydro plant stands out.

You might expect that building a hydro plant involves a lot of piping, and trenching to lie that pipe in, but the exact extent, documented in many photos, is sobering. At places, the pipe needed to be bent, and [Homo Ludens] built a wire-mesh pipe heater to facilitate the work — with the help of a few friends to weigh the pipe down at either end and create the bend. The self-wound power transformer is also a beauty.

There’s a lot more detail here than we can possibly get into, so go check it out. And if you’re in the mood for more hydro, we’ve recently run a writeup of a less ambitious, but still tidy, project that you should see. Or you could just rip apart an old washing machine.

Thanks [Patrick] for the great tip!

London Tries Smart Cities

What’s a smart city? According to Wikipedia, a smart city uses ICT (information and communication technologies) to enhance quality, performance, and interactivity of urban services while reducing costs and resource consumption. Hackers have been using technology to enhance all sorts of things for years.

London is joining forces with cities across Europe to demonstrate smart city technology, mostly in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. The project is in conjunction with the EU Horizon 2020 project, which is still soliciting proposals for funding. It seems like some Hackaday readers–especially in the EU–ought to have some ideas worth funding.

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Hydropower from a Washing Mashine

Living off the grid is an appealing goal for many in the hacker community, perhaps because it can fulfill the need to create, to establish independence, to prepare for the apocalypse, or some combination of all those things. [Buddhanz1] has been living off the grid for awhile now by harnessing power from a nearby stream with an old washing-machine-turned-generator.

He started with a Fisher & Paykel smart drive, which he stripped down to the middle housing, retaining the plastic tub, the stator, the rotor, the shaft, and the bearings. After a quick spot check to ensure the relative quality of the stator and the rotor, [Buddhanz1] removed the stator and rewired it. Unchanged, the stator would output 0-400V unloaded at 3-4 amps max, which isn’t a particularly useful range for charging batteries. By rewiring the stator (demonstration video here) he lowered the voltage while increasing the current.

The key to this build is the inclusion of a pelton wheel—which we’ve seen before in a similar build. [Buddhanz1] channeled the water flow directly into the pelton wheel to spin the shaft inside the tub. After adding some silicon sealant and an access/repair hatch, [Buddhanz1] painted the outside to protect the assembly from the sun, and fitted a DC rectifier that converts the electricity for the batteries. With the water pressure at about 45psi, the generator is capable of ~29V/21A: just over 600W. With a larger water jet, the rig can reach 900W. Stick around for the video after the break.

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Bicycle hub hydropower

[Niklas Roy] wanted to create electricity from moving water so he came up with this hyrdopower generator. It is part of his grand scheme to rent out small personal fountains made from buckets. They need electricity to run so he hooked up the generator to the water jet of a public fountain. It should be possible to use this setup with falling water in a similar way that other generators do.

To build the device he cut fins out of PVC pipe to use as the scoops. They are attached to a Shimano hub generator, meant for producing power while you pedal. The hub is mounted in the front for from a bicycle, which can then be mounted anywhere moving water is available. The only thing that worries us about the setup is [Niklas’] comment that being showered with water didn’t destroy the hub right away.

See the hub and the smaller fountains in the clip after the break.

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Hydropower generator

[Paul] wanted to have access to renewable energy at his cabin. It’s a relaxing place, nestled in a tall forest that shelters him from the sun and wind. This also means that solar and wind energy aren’t an option. But there is a stream running through the property so he decided to build his own version of a small water-powered generator.

He tapped into a reservoir about 200 feet upstream, split the flow into four smaller hoses, and channeled that into a five-gallon bucket. Inside the bucket you’ll find a Pelton wheel he built which turns a low-RPM generator. He manages to generate 56 VDC at 10 A with this setup, more than enough to charge a bank of batteries.

He does a great job of explaining his setup in the video after the break. If you’re looking for other ideas of how to cut down on your environmental impact check out this compost-powered water heater.

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