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Micro-hydro Energy Services

Micro-hydro Energy Services

Water impellers, automated needle control valves, turbines, and more!


A Micro-hydro System is a small hydro-electric generator resulting from flowing, falling water. Most people have heard about the Hoover Dam in the Southwest. The Hoover dam is giant hydro-electric generator. Few people probably know that the Wisconsin Power and Light Utility had a low-head hydro-electric generating system on the Rock River in downtown Janesville, Wisconsin.

Micro-hydro power generates usable electric power from relatively low flows of running water and from relatively low pressure (head) sources. To be sure, increasing the “head” pressure with a higher elevation usually increases usable power more than increasing the flow of water.

Micro-hydro Turbine
Micro-hydro Turbine

The advantage of micro-hydro power is that it is ideally working 24 hours a day compared to the roughly 4.4 hours per day that PV Solar Electric systems operate in our Wisconsin region.

Small PVC piping and nozzles direct the water to spin a turbine that is connected to the electric generator. Because greater distances tend to occur between the downstream turbine/generator and the residence where the power is used, wire runs are generally a low voltage and the wires are small in size. The small constant generation of power adds up.

Many renewable energy workshops take place in Guemes Island northwest of Seattle, Washington. I attended a micro-hydro workshop at that small island served by a very short ferry boat ride. The main commercial establishment was a General Store/Coffee Shop/ Restaurant just uphill from the ferry landing. There were two residential sized PV solar electric systems that served the business. There was one paved road that rose gently from the ferry landing up to the middle of the island.   Of course, it had shallow gully on either side of the road. Somewhere up the road at the first and main intersection, there was a drain pipe that connected the two gullies and directed most of the water to the right-hand gully on the lower side of the road. It only flowed for approximately 5 months in the rainy season.

Micro-hydro Turbine
This substantial water generation is using water from far upstream where there is volume and sufficient “head” pressure. The pipe will probably be buried in the near future.

As a class exercise during the workshop, we calculated a micro-hydro system that would run off the seasonal flow of this lower-side gully. The local teacher provided amounts of flows through the 5-month running water season. To our astonishment, this micro-hydro system would outperform both of the PV Solar Electric Systems. In 5 months, the micro-hydro system would exceed the two annual PV outputs!

In closing, if you have some flowing water through your property, you might want to consider a water-based micro-hydro renewable power system. Because downhill flowing water could lower or eliminate your electric bill.

Contact: Neale Thompson, Janesville Home and Solar, at 608-449-4376 or [email protected]