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Publication Title | Ultra–Low Head Hydro

Organic Rankine Cycle

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Hydro

Above: Abe Lewisburger cleans out the trash racks of prototype "Portable" low head hydroelectric plant. Turbine Specs: 22 inches of head drives a 24 inch diameter C.M.C -Fitz vertical axis francis turbine developing 3 Amperes at 130 Volts DC or 9,360 Watt hours per day. This turbine discharges 520 cubic feet of water per minute at 70 RPM. Photo by Cameron McLeod.

Ultra–Low Head Hydro Cameron MacLeod, N3IBV

©1991 Cameron MacLeod

One hundred years ago low-head hydro wasn't just an alternative; it was the best alternative. Unlike high-head sites, low-head sites are everywhere, and often closer to population centers where the power is needed. Power sources were

valuable and sought after, because cheap power wasn't delivered through silent wires down every street. Local wars were fought over water rights.

The History of Low Head Hydro

Times have changed, but the weight of water and gravity remain the same. Once we had over two hundred makers of small water turbines in the U.S.A. Some of them built, by 1875, equipment that was 80% efficient. They built and inventoried turbines as small as four inches in diameter that made one horsepower on ten feet of head. Turbines that ran on two feet of head and made from one to fifteen

horsepower were common. Some were excellent machines that ran with little maintenance for years. The know-how and hardware were everywhere. In the eastern part of America, the power of the small streams near populated areas was developed and put to work. All the way from the hills to the sea, this water was used over and over again wherever topography supplied enough head. One large stream in the east had dams and still has

6 Home Power #23 • June / July 1991

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