Brownell Micro Hydro

New York State Senate Passes Microhydro Energy Buy Back Bill S1149A-2011

The New York State Senate (finally) passes bill S1149A-2011 mandating that hydropower energy be metered (and thus purchased back) from microhydro generators. This is great news for individual microhydro generators like us, as now any additional energy beyond our needs we generate can be sold back to the utility companies.

The full bill is posted here

Winterized Residential Micro Hydro Generator in Stealth Mode

WInterized micro hydro generatorBy Stefan Brownell

Yeah, I know... not exactly the best timing for a winterizing post but... :-)

Generator’s ready for winter! Capped off with 1/3 barrel to keep elements out. Two inch supply line splits into four 1 inch pipes running now on about 40 GPM, which on this system equals about ¾ Horsepower, or 560 continuous Watts. 

Eventually nozzles will be reduced and go down to two as stream flow slows down in winter months (10-15 GPM). The unions at the generator allow quick disconnect and draining of the flexible pipes to protect from ice up when not in use. 

All pipes are painted to keep set up more stealth; not really a kid-prone area, but curious hunters, etc. may see it from a distance and investigate. Hopefully the ‘high voltage’ sign will keep anyone from probing around…

If your generator is out of sight, securing it may be an issue. It could be locked down or watched with a ‘game camera’ that takes pictures when movement is present. Being on the lowest point of your property to gain the fullest available vertical drop, the generator is placed near the very edge of the property. 

To ensure the longevity of your painstaking set up, make sure neighbors are informed of the ‘humming contraption’ just off their property line. Talking (nicely) to your neighboring land owners on the uphill side of your creek may lead to them relinquishing their ‘water rights’ which could result in a much higher catch spot for your pipe run equaling more power.

Written by Stefan Brownell — March 23, 2013

Micro Hydro Generator Piping [Video]

Take a quick tour of one of our simple yet robust micro hydro systems. 52 PSI through a 2" pipe and the stream is running on dry 8-10 GPM. Valves and piping set up for generator at bottom of site. Simple design keeps nozzle selection modular. Commonly available pieces make repairs easy and affordable.

By Stefan Brownell 

Basic Micro Hydro System Diagram

Basic micro hydro diagram

By Stefan Brownell

Hydropower potential depends strongly upon your particular property and it’s topography. To maximize energy produced, water should be ‘caught’ cleanly at the uppermost highest point of the stream at the edge of your boundary. Asking your uphill neighbor for water rights doesn’t hurt either :-)

Piping the System

Piping it in the biggest pipe you can keep full (dependent on average GPM flows) and laying out the straightest run for it is also key for efficiency.

The micro hydro generator needs to be plumbed at the lowest possible extent of the property. The total vertical distance (elevation) from the top to the bottom of the pipe is called the ‘head’ of the system.The pipe run should be installed as the water flows (sometimes in cold climates it’s run right in the stream to prevent ice-up). There should be minimal bends and drops, being careful not to have drooping sections where water (or air) would be trapped in a ‘U’ section.

Wiring the System

Tapping the generator, the supply wiring needs to be sent back to your house or battery bank. The shortest run possible is the most efficient, as well as the cheapest. There are a few ways to accomplish this; suspended up in the air, buried in conduit, or sent across at ground level in conduit. 

Calculating Power Output

Each site has its own specific design qualities and may be a combination of the latter. Calculating your average yearly GPM flow, along with the site’s head can give you a rough estimate of your power potential. These factors, when learned, will give you a realistic idea of the investment needed to be able to utilize nature’s potential to its fullest.

To calculate an approximate output, we can express potential in horsepower. (1 HP = 746 Watts) to obtain this value, multiply HEAD x FLOW, and divide by 3960, and then multiply this answer by .7 . This last multiplier is a type of ‘derate’ factor that corrects for overall system inefficiencies (pipe frictions, wire run losses, generator losses, etc.).

HEAD x FLOW / 3960 x .7 x 746 = Watts of power

Written by Stefan Brownell — October 29, 2012

Residential Micro Hydro Power: The Basics

This stream is just asking for a micro hydro system.
If you are lucky enough to own property with a creek, stream, or river flowing through it, this moving body of water may supply your energy future. Newer technologies and equipment have allowed even the smallest of creeks to provide an ample amount of electricity to be generated to run some small appliances.
Electricity prices are always going up, never down. Investing in the independence of creating YOUR OWN power can free you from power outages, higher bills, and possibly the grid itself!
Calculating Power Output
The potential renewable energy from a residential microhydro system is dependent upon the average FLOW of your water source (usually calculated in Gallons Per Minute [GPM]) and the total HEAD of the falling water (the vertical distance in feet from the highest point of the stream to the lowest).

To calculate an approximate output, we can express potential in horsepower. (1 HP = 746 Watts) to obtain this value, multiply HEAD x FLOW, and divide by 3960, and then multiply this answer by .7 . This last multiplier is a type of ‘derate’ factor that corrects for overall system inefficiencies (pipe frictions, wire run losses, generator losses, etc.). 
Our Formula:
HEAD x FLOW / 3960 x .7 x 746 = Watts of power
Our HEAD (distance from highest to lowest point of our stream) is 450 ft. Our water source FLOW runs at 15 Gallons per Minute (GPM) average. We multiply by .7 to take into account the ineffeciencies of a typical micro hydro system and then convert to Watts by multiplying by 746.
450 x 15 / 3960 x .7 x 746 = 890 W
Catch it High, Pipe it Low
Catching the water at the highest point of your property, and piping it to a generator at the lowest point of your land maximizes the available power output. The pipe size chosen is reflected by your flow rate, and wire sizing from generator to house or battery bank is determined by distance and/or power output.

Balance of system components (typically inside house) include inverters, batteries, load controllers and disconnects/breakers. These systems can become expensive and complex depending upon the level or size of the power capacity available. Keeping it simple and predicting your electrical needs can go a long way to designing an effective, affordable system.
Residential Micro Hydro Systems Pay for Themselves Many Times Over

If your personal river cruises kayaks all year in whitewater, then shoot for the moon! Your system will easily pay for itself in a short time and you’ll be net-metering back to the grid for some easy income. On the smaller scale, a 15GPM flow dropping over 150 ft. can easily power most, if not all, of your electric and heating needs.

The key to designing a smart system is to do your homework; watch and measure seasonal flow rates, estimate head and flow, determine distances for pipe and wiring, and shop a local reputable installer. The difference between hydro vs. solar and wind is the variable tendencies of the latter; it’s not always windy or sunny…
However, hydro never sleeps – power is being made 24/7/365! On average micro hydro systems cost 1/3 less than these other renewable sources and incur much less maintenance, permitting, and installation fees.