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20400611 Micro Hydro Electricity Basics

20400611 Micro Hydro Electricity Basics

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Published by: jandonian on Feb 15, 2010
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10/07/2010

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Micro-hydro Electricity Basics
 By Paul Cunningham & Ian WoofendenHydropower is based on simple concepts. Moving water turns aturbine, the turbine spins a generator, and electricity is produced.Many other components may be in a system, but it all begins with theenergy already within the moving water.Water power is the combination of head and flow. Both must bepresent to produce electricity. Consider a typical hydro system. Wateris diverted from a stream into a pipeline, where it is directed downhill andthrough the turbine (flow). The vertical drop (head) creates pressure at thebottom end of the pipeline. The pressurized water emerging from the endof the pipe creates the force that drives the turbine. More flow or morehead produces more electricity. Electrical power output will always beslightly less than water power input due to turbine and systeminefficiencies.Head is water pressure, which is created by the difference in elevationbetween the water intake and the turbine. Head can be expressed asvertical distance (feet or meters), or as pressure, such as pounds persquare inch (psi). Net head is the pressure available at the turbine whenwater is flowing, which will always be less than the pressure when thewater is turned off (static head), due to the friction between the water andthe pipe. Pipeline diameter has an effect on net head.Flow is water quantity, and is expressed as "volume per time," such asgallons per minute (gpm), cubic feet per second (cfs), or liters per minute(lpm). Design flow is the maximum flow for which your hydro system isdesigned. It will likely be less than the maximum flow of your stream(especially during the rainy season), more than your minimum flow, and acompromise between potential electrical output and system cost.Measuring Head & Flow
 
Before you can begin designing your hydro system or estimating howmuch electricity it will produce, you´ll need to make four essentialmeasurements:• Head (the vertical distance between the intake and turbine)• Flow (how much water comes down the stream)• Pipeline (penstock) length• Electrical transmission line length (from turbine to home or battery bank)Head and flow are the two most important facts you need to know aboutyour hydro site. You simply cannot move forward without thesemeasurements. Your site´s head and flow will determine everything aboutyour hydro system—pipeline size, turbine type, rotational speed, andgenerator size. Even rough cost estimates will be impossible until you´vemeasured head and flow.When measuring head and flow, keep in mind that accuracy is important.Inaccurate measurements can result in a hydro system designed to thewrong specs, and one that produces less electricity at a greater expense.
 
 
See also the following Home Power feature articles: 
 Microhydro-Electric Systems Simplified Intro to Hydropower—Part 1: Systems Overview Intro to Hydropower—Part 2: Measuring Head & Flow Intro to Hydropower—Part 3: Power, Efficiency, Transmission &Equipment Selection Microhydro-Electric System TypesOff-Grid Battery-Based Microhydro-Electric SystemsMost small off-grid hydro systems are battery-based. Battery systemshave great flexibility and can be combined with other energy sources,such as wind generators and solar-electric arrays, if your stream isseasonal. Because stream flow is usually consistent, battery charging is

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