Small Scale Hydro Power
If you are fortunate enough to have a stream or river on your property, there are a few ways you can use water to generate electricity or pump water. As long as the stream or water source doesn't dry up, hydro power provides a more steady supply of energy than does solar or wind.
Because so many factors may impact your results, there really is no "one-size-fits all" solution for what type of renewable energy system works best for everyone. While solar is available everywhere, your farm or real estate may provide more potential for using hydro power or wind generators. Of course equipment requirements and costs vary for each method and location, but in many cases "Micro-Hydro" power is the least expensive option for renewable energy sources
Understanding the basic components of a renewable energy source system and how each functions is not an overwhelming task. Here is a quick list of some of the most common equipment used for microhydro-electric systems. Systems do vary and not all equipment is necessary for every system type.
Main DC Disconnect
AC Breaker Panel
Before you just head out to buy equipment, you should first check your site for the amount of vertical drop of the stream (measured in feet) and the amount of flow of the stream. (Measured in GPM - Gallons per Minute.) Additionally, you should check with your local Department of Natural Resources to ascertain if it is permissible to use micro-hydro power with the source of water that you have in mind.
Another option to consider for pumping water is through the use of a Ram Pump. These have been around for many years and can be used for irrigation, gardening and bringing water up to a storage tank.
How does a Ram Pump work?
Water accelerates through a pipe and an open waste valve. The water velocity increases until the flow and upward force causes the waste valve to slam shut. When the valve closes, it produces pressure that causes water to be released through a check valve and into a pressure tank. At this point, the pressure below the check valve is lower than the pressure in the tank so the check valve releases and the water is pumped out. This is a continuously repeated as long as there is water flow. Ram pumps are not a good option if you need to deliver large amounts of water, but is low-tech enough that you can build your own.