DIY Hydroelectric Plant

Impressive Off-Grid Hydroelectric Plant Showcases The Hacker Spirit

We all know the story arc that so many projects take: Build. Fail. Improve. Fail. Repair. Improve. Fail. Rebuild. Success… Tweak! [Kris Harbour] is no stranger to the process, as his impressive YouTube channel testifies.

DIY Hydroelectric Plant
An IOT charge controller makes power management easier.

Among all of [Kris’] off-grid DIY adventures, his 500 W micro hydroelectric turbine has us really pumped up. The impressive feat of engineering features Arduino/IOT based controls, 3D printed components, and large number of custom-machined components, with large amounts of metal fabrication as well.

[Kris] Started the build with a Pelton wheel sourced from everyone’s favorite online auction site paired with an inexpensive MPPT charge controller designed for use with solar panels. Eventually the turbine was replaced with a custom built unit designed to produce more power. An Arduino based turbine valve controller and an IOT enabled charge controller give [Kris] everything he needs to manage the hydroelectric system without having to traipse down to the power house. Self-cleaning 3D printed screens keep intake maintenance to a minimum. Be sure to check out a demonstration of the control system in the video below the break.

As you watch the Hydro electric system playlist, you see the hacker spirit run strong throughout the initial build, the failures, the engineering, the successes, and then finally, the tweaking for more power. Because why stop at working when it can be made better, right? We highly recommend checking it out- but set aside some time. The whole series is oddly addictive, and This Hackaday Writer may have spent inordinate amounts of time watching it instead of writing dailies!

Of course, you don’t need to go full-tilt to get hydroelectric power up and running. Even at a low wattage, its always-on qualities mean that even a re-purposed washing machine can be efficient enough to be quite useful.

Thanks to [Mo] for alerting us to the great series via the Tip Line!

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A Modest But Well-Assembled Home Hydropower Setup

We have all opened an electricity bill and had thoughts of saving a bit of money by generating our own power. Most of us never get any further than just thinking about it, but for anyone willing to give it a try we are very fortunate in that we live in a time at which technology has delivered many new components that make it a much more straightforward prospect than it used to be. Electronic inverters, efficient alternators, and electronic battery management systems are all easy to find via the internet, and are thus only a matter of waiting for the courier to arrive.

Pelton Wheel
Pelton Wheel

[Frédéric Waltzing] is lucky enough to have access to a 135 foot (38 metre) head of water that those of us in flatter environments could only dream of. He’s used it to generate his own power using a modestly sized but very effective turbine, and he documented it in a Youtube video which you can see below the break.

He brings the water to his turbine house through a 1.5 inch plastic pipe, in which he maintains a 55PSI closed pressure that drops to 37PSI when the system is running. His Pelton wheel develops 835RPM, from which a small permanent magnet alternator provides 6.3A for his battery management system. An Enerwatt 2KW inverter provides useful power from the system.

This hydroelectric installation might not be very large, but its key is not in its size but that it can run continuously. A continuous free 6.3A charge can store up a lot of energy for those times when you need it.

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Hydropower Washing Machine

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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