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Publication Title | 240 vac Direct Drive Hydro

Organic Rankine Cycle

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John Hermans ©1998 John Hermans

Above: John and Robyn with kids Ben and Jill over the tail race and main shaft.

or seven years, my family and I

have been deriving 100% of our electrical energy needs from a 240

vac alternator driven by a low head, axial flow turbine. During this time and the years leading to its development and installation, I read many articles on micro hydro electrical systems.

It is apparent that in recent years the number of micro- hydro installations have increased. This is due to their higher efficiency of operation and the availability of smaller, less costly units. These are primarily designed for constant battery charging. I am always intrigued to read of an installation that has a pure 240 vac output, but it is quite rare to find such an article, thus I am prompted to write this one.

Site Selection

Of the hundreds of existing micro-hydro installations along the east coast of Australia, very few would readily adapt to a 240 vac output due to the small volume of water on which they operate. But, there are a large

number of potential sites that are suitable for 240 vac which have low to medium head (1 to 6 meters) and flow rates which are considerably higher. This situation usually requires a river frontage property as opposed to a creek. It is the Nicholson River of East Gippsland, Victoria, Australia which provides us with just that: a low head (1.2 meters) but high volume (100 to 2000 liters per second).

The Weir

Perhaps the only real obstacle to the construction of a similar system is the ability to build a water impermeable concrete and rock wall. This wall is required to allow water to enter the penstock (the piping to the turbine). It should not only resist flood damage, but should not initiate erosion problems in times of flood. Its potential to be undermined by water under pressure must be avoided. Such a site should preferably have a monolithic rock base for the majority of its length. The use of low level walls across rivers gives rise to minimal ecological impact. It is evident from my own installation with a small fish ladder that aquatic life is still free to move up and down the stream. This is most certainly not the case only 1 kilometer upstream, where there is a 10 meter high concrete weir built to supply water to the nearby coastal towns.

36 Home Power #65 • June / July 1998

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