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Publication Title | Small Water Power Siting

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Small Water Power Siting


Paul Cunningham

here are small streams running over much of the countryside. Perhaps you are Twondering if a brook in your area is suitable for developing into a power source. The following is intended to show the procedure I used in my case to arrive at solutions to various problems. Discussing the thinking involved will provide some interesting

How Much Is Enough?

A small scale water power system requires a more specific site than either a wind or photovoltaic one. You do need to have some flowing water. On the other hand, it isn't necessary to have very much, or much pressure, and it doesn't have to be very close to the point of use. My situation will illustrate this.

Here in the Canadian Maritimes it is difficult to go very far without finding some type of stream. I live in an area of rugged topography which enhances the water power potential. My house is located near a brook that most times of the year has a fairly low flow rate. There is normally little water in the stream above the house while water from springs which come to the surface steadily increase the flow as the water runs downhill.

One logical place for the intake and beginning of the pipeline is near my house. Although flow increases further downstream, the slope decreases. Near the house the brook drops around 8 feet for every 100 horizontal feet. So running a pipeline downstream 1,000 feet produces a combined drop or "head" of 75 feet. This looked like a reasonable place to start although the site permits running a pipeline 3,000 feet before the brook meets another one running almost level.

1000 ft. of 1.5 in. polyethylene pipe was purchased (in 1978) and simply laid on the ground. A small screened box served as the intake and was set in the brook with a "dam" of earth and rocks sufficient to raise the water level about one foot. At this site, the maximum power will be produced at a flow rate of about 20 gallons per minute (GPM). This is the point where the dynamic (running or net) head is equal to two thirds of the static head. So there will be 50 feet of net head at the end of the pipe when the water is running with a suitable nozzle at the end.

Losses within the Pipe

Any increase in flow will result in a decrease in power available due to increased pipe friction losses. Right away

one third of the precious power potential is lost. At lower flow rates the pipe loss decreases which results in an increase in efficiency as flow decreases.

So why don't I use a larger pipe? Well, it costs more and sometimes 20 GPM is all there is in the brook. Also a


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3733 Kenora Dr., Spring Valley, California 92077 · (619) 460-3930

Home Power 1

November 1987 7


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