Homestead Hydro Power: Build Your Own Water-Power Plant

Harness the power of your stream and forget the electric company. This is the first of three installments of the five-part article printed by Popular Science that very concisely sketched out every step for establishing a small water-power plant on a farm or homestead.


| January/February 1972



013-023-01

You can build your own energy-producing water wheel.


PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

Back in 1947, Popular Science printed a five-part article that very concisely sketched out every step necessary for establishing a small water-power plant on a farm or homestead. That informtion is just as valuable today for many of MOTHER's readers as it was 25 years ago and the publication has kindly given us reprint rights to the whole package. You'll find the first three installments in this issue and the last two sections of the series will be printed in a later issue.

Homestead Hydro: Part 1

Many farms, ranches, and other fair-sized tracts of land embrace at least one brook within their limits. In most cases, the idea that a small stream can provide a useful source of power has never occurred to the property owner or, if it did, has been rejected as silly. The fact remains, nevertheless, that impressive advantages can spring from small water-power installations.

Electricity can be generated for general use, for pumping water, and for stand-by or emergency purposes; and the pond that is usually created can serve additionally as a means for watering livestock in dry times, for fire-fighting, as a swimming pool, as a place to raise fish for sport or as a "crop," and for landscaping or scenic purposes.

Power can be obtained from any flowing stream, no matter how small. Whether it is desirable to harness this power depends on two factors. First, does water flow all the year round, even in the late summer months? Second, does enough water flow to make the harnessing of it economically sound? The first factor is, of course, known to the property owner by observation; the second may be determined by simple measurements. 

What's the least amount of power that is worth developing? There is in this country at least one water-wheel manufacturer who makes a line of small-capacity units, and this company's smallest hydroelectric unit develops 1/2 kilowatt. From this it can be inferred that, in this company's experience, it is not economically wise to harness a stream that will not develop at least 500 watts dependably at the switchboard. Half a kilowatt will light 10 fair-sized lamps or supply 2/3 hp. to operate, say, a deep-well pump. With this figure in mind as a criterion, the reader can make a preliminary reconnaissance of the water power available on his property. The chances are he will be surprised; even a seemingly insignificant stream can deliver many times this minimum.

The power available at the site of a water wheel (that is, before deductions for inefficiencies in the wheel and generator) is expressed in this formula: 

juri
7/9/2007 8:03:15 AM

I want to generate energy but only have the Zambezi river that flows at approx 5km/h, there is no slope for me o divert and create an over the top flow wheel Perhaps someone can advise. Thanks Juri Lusaka ZAMBIA






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