What is Micro Hydro Energy?

April 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Hydro Energy

Though you might not have heard much about it, micro hydro energy holds a great deal of promise as a green alternative to traditional fossil fuels like oil or coal power. It is completely environmentally friendly and renewable, but only can serve specific areas. In locations that have access to a running river or creek that is stable and not likely to dry up, micro hydroelectricity can be a viable power option.

Micro hydropower has been used since ancient times. Egyptian culture used the energy from flowing water to grind grain and operate machinery. Later, in 1882, the first hydroelectric power plant was built to light two paper mills and a home in Wisconsin. During the 20th century, hydropower played an instrumental part in the industrial revolution. Today, hydropower plants supply power to more than a billion people and produce 24 percent of the world’s electricity.

The flow of water from natural sources like rivers and streams, which carry a good amount of energy, is used to create micro hydropower using a turbine system that is placed in the water flow. The water wheel has become synonymous with hydropower, having been used to grind grain through the 20th century, but there are newer, more effective kinds of turbines.

The most common of these is the Pelton wheel, which consists of a succession of cups attached to a central hub. The force of flowing water pushes the cups and makes the turbine spin. As water flows over and pushes the turbines, electricity is generated. It can also work with just moderate water flow, but the faster the water flow, the more electricity produced.

Micro hydropower uses the same principals to create electricity that are used by dams, without disrupting ecosystems by interrupting the flow of water. Turbines are made from environmentally clean materials, and can collect flowing water without damaging the ecosystem. This can be accomplished by diverting no more than 20% of the water flow through the turbine, and by returning any diverted water back just downstream from the turbine.

Of the three most readily used renewable energy sources , including solar and wind power, micro hydropower is the least common, yet has the potential to reliably generate the most power under the right circumstances. While solar energy and wind power systems have to store energy for use when the sun is not shining or there is no wind, micro hydro energy only depends on the continual flow of water. It can continue to run and produce power night or day and in any kind of weather.

After electricity is collected and stored from micro hydropower, it can be transferred for home use. It is possible to achieve energy independence with a micro hydropower system and meet all of a home’s energy needs off grid. On grid usage provides the added benefit of being able to store extra energy or sell it back to the utility company.

If you live in an area that is favorable to harnessing energy through the use of micro hydropower, it can be a great way to generate green, renewable energy for home use. With a flowing river, the power source will never run out and shows great promise for the future of renewable energy.