How to Build an on-off Grid Hydroelectric Generation

In this article, I’m going to tell you how you can build your micro-hydro generator and use it to have cheap electric power at home or in an off-grid cabin.

There are many benefits to building micro hydropower. If you live off the grid it is a great way to generate hydropower and still have energy at your home. One good thing about micro-hydro generators is that their small size makes them fairly easy to build and they do not require much maintenance. 

The generator housing does not even need to be placed in water so there is no risk of damaging it by dropping it in the wrong location or hitting rocks as you carry it into position. These micro-generators produce very little noise except for some low-level gurgling sounds that can barely be heard from inside your house unless you’re standing right next to the intake vent.

Why would anyone want micro hydropower? 

Well, the answer is simple: micro-hydro generators are silent (for most cases), don’t produce polluting gases as gasoline engines do, they are very efficient (you get many times more electricity than what was used to make it). 

And micro hydra plants can be built almost anywhere where there’s “water falling from the sky”: micro hydropower can be obtained from rivers, creeks or just by building a small weir and trapping water in a natural rock “reservoir”. The micro-hydroelectric dams do not necessarily have to belong: long river micro-hydro generators collect energy from the whole water stream, so micro-hydro generators don’t need large amounts of falling water.

Well, enough with the talking about micro hydropower… let’s get our hands dirty!

Building Your Own On-Off Grid Hydroelectric Generation

Building your micro-hydro generator is an easy and fun task, and you should try it (if you don’t know what micro-hydropower is already). I’m going to use this post as a tutorial on how to build micro-hydro power, so let’s get started:

Step 1: Find a good micro hydropower site

What is micro-hydro and how micro hydropower works? If you’ve done that then we can proceed to find the perfect micro hydropower site for your micro-hydro generator.

Step 2: Get some wood and tools.

I think it goes without saying… you should not try building this micro-hydroelectric dam with plastic or something like that… make sure you get real wood, tools and electrical equipment at the local hardware store! Surprisingly enough I lack many of these materials myself; never mind, time for a weekend trip to the hardware…

Step 3: Design the micro-hydro generator you want to build.

As micro-hydropower is not my piece of cake I’ve managed to find this great micro-hydroelectric design website that provides micro hydropower plans for free. Having no experience in building micro hydropower plants I found these free micro-hydropower projects very useful and easy-to-follow. So if you are an inexperienced micro-hydro builder like me, definitely use these micro hydropower designs.

Getting back on topic… after getting some materials together it’s time to find the perfect micro hydroelectric plant design for your needs (if you aren’t sure what size & type of hydro generator would be best for your budget, micro-hydro power project plans can help you with that). If micro hydropower looks like something for you, then by all means go ahead.

The micro-hydro generator you are going to build should be able to operate in two different ways: when there is enough water in the micro-hydro power plant reservoir it will turn on and start generating electricity, but when the water level in the micro-hydroelectric dam goes down it turns off automatically (so when there’s no more water available micro-hydro power plant stops producing electricity) – this is called an “on-off grid” system.

Step 4: Build a micro-hydro generator.

Knowing how micro hydropower generators work and what size micro-hydro power plant would best suit your house we can proceed to build the micro-hydroelectric dam.

I know a micro hydropower plan for beginners can be kind of complicated, so let’s take it to step by step…

You need a micro hydropower generator “box”; the sides are made out of wood – the height should be equal to the height of your micro-hydro generator water wheel (you can find out how wide you should make it here ). Next, you need two strong metal beams that will support your micro hydroelectric plant. 

They are attached to our micro hydropower generator “box” with screws. Make sure they are attached tightly because these beams will carry all the weight of your micro-hydropower generator!

Now get yourself some long bolts and attach them horizontally between both metal beams; this is where the micro-hydropower water wheel goes. Make sure the hydroelectric generator is supported properly before continuing with micro-hydro dam construct-hydropower

In the end, you need to attach a low voltage generator box to these metal beams – this will be our micro hydropower “box”. There’s no specific rule on how it should look, so just use your imagination and build the micro-hydro turbine part in a way that’s most suitable for your micro-hydropower plant design. I used bolts and nails for micro-hydropower plant assembly, but if you want it strictly DIY then you could use screws too (and probably some glue).

What is a micro hydropower system?

The micro-hydro-electric system consists of a micro-hydro generator, micro-hydro turbine and micro-hydro generator stator/rotor assembly. It does not have a network of transmission power lines like a conventional micro-hydroelectric power station.

The micro hydropower system uses a micro-hydro turbine and micro-hydro generator rotor to convert the mechanical energy of fast-flowing water into electricity and then the transmission line (micro-hydro cables or wires) transmits this electricity from micro-hydro power turbine to remote load connection points such as home, farmhouse, cottage etc.

As the micro-hydro generator rotor of the micro hydropower system works on mechanical energy from fast-flowing water, a micro-hydro turbine is needed to divert a portion of this flow into a micro-hydro turbine. You can use a diversion dam or diversion weir to divert some quantity of water flow into a micro hydropower turbine.

The micro hydropower system does not have a water reservoir and the micro-hydro generator works as a micro hydropower turbine when it generates electricity.

Once a micro-hydro system is installed, you can use micro-hydro power to meet your remote power needs such as lighting up the remote areas, running micro hydro-powered electrical appliances etc. A micro-hydropower system can be set up in a small stream or a micro-hydro setup can be used in your backyard to produce micro hydropower.

If you need more micro-hydro power, set up a micro-hydropower station with a higher micro-hydro turbine/generator capacity. You can also connect the micro-hydro turbine of the micro-hydro system in series or parallel to increase the electrical output of the micro hydropower plant.

How micro-hydro system can be set up easily by anyone with minimal DIY skills?

When micro hydropower setup is compared to the micro-hydro-electric power station, micro-hydro turbine and generator component of micro-hydro plant need less civil work (less concrete and construction) and micro hydropower installation cost is relatively low. 

You don’t need a large micro-hydro turbine as a micro hydropower system works on a micro-sized fast-flowing stream of water. In a micro hydropower system, a micro-hydro generator rotor operates at low speed and a micro-hydro power generator needs very little cooling compared to that of a micro-hydroelectric power station.

Micro-hydro turbine is generally a velocity type micro-hydro turbine which is very simple and easy to build micro-hydro generator rotor blades.

With a micro hydropower system, micro-hydro power station cost depends on the micro hydropower turbine/generator capacity required for your remote load. In a micro hydropower system, a micro-hydro turbine is usually a low head water velocity type micro hydropower turbine which has less micro-hydro generator cost compared to a micro-hydro turbine of the micro-hydro-electric power station.

With a micro-hydro power station, your micro-hydro site does not need any large streams or rivers that can produce micro-hydro power to meet your remote load demand. Even you can set up a micro hydropower system in a small stream/creek flowing through your farmhouse or homesite. 

The micro hydropower installation cost may be higher than the micro-hydro-electric system, but the micro-hydro plant life span is much longer and micro-hydropower generation (from micro-hydro power generator rotor) can be set up in any location.

What are the Different kinds of micro-hydro power generation systems?

There are many micro-hydro power generation systems, here are top three top micro-hydro power generation technologies:

Flywheel micro-hydro power generation system

A flywheel micro-hydro generator is similar to a rotary engine and it consists of a rotor and flywheel that spins in two planes at the same time. This micro-hydro generator is the most efficient micro-hydro power generation system.

The micro Hydro Turbine

In this micro-hydro turbine, all of the force on the runner blades is converted into torque so it can be considered a direct drive system. The micro-hydro turbine has a major advantage over a conventional water wheel type micro-hydro generator because there are no gears or belts to wear out or replace.

Micro-hydro Archimedes screw generator 

The micro-hydro generator consists of two screws, one revolving in a stationary tube and another revolving in water. This micro hydropower machine is designed for low head micro hydro generators that can be used on streams of water as small as three meters.

How Can a micro hydropower system benefit off-grid homes?

Electricity from micro-hydro systems is truly renewable. Solar and wind renewable energy sources face constantly changing conditions from day to night, summer through winter, strong breezes vs calm days that would affect the amount of electricity they can produce at any given time. In contrast, micro-hydro generation systems are always available, regardless of the time of day or weather conditions.

Micro-hydro systems can provide 100% off-grid homes with clean, sustainable electricity 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

Having micro hydropower as part of an off-grid home’s renewable energy system allows for more flexibility in designing micro-hydro power generation systems.

What is the average micro-hydro power generation system cost for an off-grid house?

The micro hydropower installation cost varies depending on many factors such as the type of micro-hydropower generator, the micro hydropower turbine used, micro-hydro power storage systems needed, and where the micro-hydro site is located (some areas may need to have micro hydropower permits and inspections). Overall micro hydropower installation costs can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands.

Benefits of micro-hydro power

Micro Hydro Power is a technology that has an important potential for solving some of the problems associated with energy production and use. An important micro-hydro generator benefit is reducing greenhouse gas emissions by using a renewable energy technology with no burning of fossil fuels. Other micro hydropower benefits include:

  • It can be used to produce micro-hydro power for homes and businesses that would otherwise need to purchase their energy from a utility company. 
  • It can help in reducing poverty since micro-hydro generators are often the cheapest and most efficient way to supply micro hydropower.
  • micro-hydro power generation can be used to manage micro hydropower variability, thus enabling micro-hydropower systems to supply power at any time of day or night.
  • Since micro-hydro generators don’t require fossil fuels, they reduce dependence on imported energy and foreign countries won’t have so much influence over micro hydropower projects.
  • micro hydro generators can provide power that is cheaper than diesel generator micro-hydro power, which will lower the operating costs of micro micro micro hydropower plants and their users.
  • If designed properly micro-hydro generators won’t use up valuable farmland or natural habitats. This makes it possible to produce micro hydropower locally, reducing micro hydropower transportation needs and increasing micro-hydro power generation efficiency.

Micro hydropower help protect the environment

Micro Hydro Power is a valuable micro hydropower resource that helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using renewable energy with no burning of fossil fuels in micro-hydro generators. Since micro-hydro generators don’t require fossil fuels, micro-hydro power generation reduces dependence on imported energy and foreign countries won’t have so much influence over micro micro micro hydropower projects.

Choosing the Right Turbine for Your Off-Grid Hydro Power System

There are many micro-hydro turbines on the market, and finding one that fits your needs can be confusing. There are two types of micro-hydro turbines: the submersible turbine and the surface-type turbine. The submersible type is cheaper than the surface turbine because it does not require a dam to store water, but they also have less output potential. The surface type that does not require a dam to store water has higher output, but it is more expensive and needs a stronger flow of water.

When choosing your micro-hydro turbine, be sure to keep in mind the head, flow rate and tailrace depth. These three factors will affect the generated power you get from your micro hydropower system. You can learn more about micro-hydro turbines from the micro-hydro online course.

The following are some of the best micro-hydro turbines on the market:

  • The HydroWorld Mini Hydro Turbine, which is a great turbine for beginners to use in low-head micro-hydro sites where there are less than 5 meters (16.4 feet) of the head
  • The HydroWorld micro-hydro turbine for low-head micro-hydro sites has a lower cost than the above Mini Hydro turbine
  • The Aqua-Max micro-hydro generator is an all-inclusive micro hydropower system with towers, pipes, valves, turbine and micro-hydro generator, which makes this micro-hydro generator a great choice for beginners to micro hydropower generation.

One thing you need to remember when choosing a micro-hydro generator is that there are many factors affecting micro-hydro power generation such as head, flow rate (GPM) and tailrace depth (ft.). There’s no one micro-hydro turbine that is perfect for micro-hydro power generation. Once you figure out your micro-hydro site and the factors affecting micro-hydro power generation, then it will be easier to find a micro-hydro generator that fits your needs. As long as you know these three things: head, flow rate and tailrace depth, you can choose just about any micro-hydro turbine out there.

If you would like to find out more micro-hydro turbine suppliers, check the micro-hydro online course for micro hydro generator suppliers.

How to Build an On-Off Grid Hydroelectric Generation System with Guidelines on Installation and Maintenance of Off-Grid Electrical Systems

A micro-hydropower system is a small-scale water mill that can generate electricity from a micro-hydro site. This type of power system is the ideal choice for detached homes and small buildings that do not have access to mainstream electric grids or diesel generators, or for any building that has no connection to the grid due to remoteness.

The micro hydropower system is usually operated by utilizing micro-hydro sites, but it can also be powered by micro wind turbines, micro solar power systems, micro geothermal energy systems or any readily available natural water source.

A micro-hydro site is a small-scale hydropower installation that generates electricity from the movement of water flowing through an artificial watercourse or by utilizing tidal currents. This type of micro-hydro site can be used to generate micro hydropower for off-grid houses, small buildings and cottages.

There are many micro-hydro sites available like micro dams, micro diversion structures, micro reservoirs and micro tunnels. A micro dam is an artificial watercourse that has a large drop in elevation; it is built across a stream or river to increase water flow and generate micro hydropower. 

A micro diversion structure is a low-head micro-hydro generator that utilizes the water flowing over an existing micro dam or weir; it diverts some of this water into a micro penstock where it can spin a micro-hydro turbine and create electricity. Micro reservoirs are man-made structures built across micro rivers to store large amounts of micro-hydropower, whereas micro tunnels are man-made structures built underneath micro dams to increase water flow.

In addition, micro-hydro sites can also be created from natural waterways such as micro streams and brooks that have a strong flow rate of water. In some cases, small micro-hydro generators can be powered by micro rivers and micro creeks.

The Micro-Hydro Turbine House System

The micro-hydro turbine or micro-generator is a simple device that when set up in the correct fashion can provide all the power needed for small homes. The micro-hydro system consists of a water wheel housed in a covered housing unit usually in a steep river with a lot of fast-moving water, which spins a shaft connected to an electrical generator that produces electricity. 

This micro-hydro system is a very simple and effective means of producing electricity for homes or places of business off the main power grid.

Micro hydroelectric generation systems have been around since before 1800, where they were used to supply power to mills and other industrial processes. In more modern times micro-hydro generators are being employed to create micro-hydropower systems that generate electricity for off-grid housing.

Micro-hydro systems are a type of hydroelectric generation system that uses the kinetic energy from flowing water to turn a shaft connected to a generator that produces electricity. In micro-hydro systems, the source of flowing water is usually from rivers and streams, but micro-hydro systems have been generated from other sources such as dams. 

In micro-hydro systems, the energy from the flowing water is used, which means micro-hydro plants do not have a stream of water constantly going through them to generate power. When micro-hydro generation systems are employed in remote areas away from large bodies of water it is necessary to use a pump station to move and pressurize water to the micro-hydro plant.

A micro-hydropower system is simple and inexpensive when compared to other types of generation systems. Micro-hydro generators only need two major pieces, a microturbine (waterwheel) and a generator set. Other components needed are wiring, pipes, penstock (wire mesh), inlet valve, channel/tunnel, tail/penstock (wire mesh), and micro-hydro house.

Before micro-hydro systems can be built they must be carefully planned out to ensure that the micro-generator works properly. 

This includes finding a suitable location for the micro-hydro plant, sizing a micro-hydro system, choosing a microturbine, selecting a type of micro-generator, micro-hydro housing, micro-hydro controller, micro wood/coal/newspaper/cotton oil press (if needed), and getting the proper permits.

The micro-hydro plant location site should be chosen to take advantage of natural water flow in a high-speed river or stream currents. Ample mountain slope or drainage flow is required for micro-hydro plants. The micro-hydro housing should be located near the microturbine so that a channel can be built to bring water from one to the other.

A micro-hydro plant system requires low slope (10%) channels which are usually made by pushing or drilling into hard rock ridge sides or making them with diggers and bulldozers. The slope is required to micro-hydro plants for the water to gain speed which turns a micro-generator turbine. 

The micro-hydro house (penstock wire mesh) should be set up on top of or slightly above the microturbine, and penstock (wire mesh) channels need to connect micro-hydro housing with the micro powerhouse.

The micro-hydro generator turbine needs to be strong durable and sized to the micro-hydro house. It has a shaft that rotates at an optimum speed of about 35 rpm which is connected to the micro-hydroelectric generator or micro hydropower system equipment. 

The micro hydropower plant equipment consists of a micro-hydro controller and micro-generator set.

The micro-hydro controller regulates the micro-hydro generator set for producing electricity. 

The micro-generator set consists of a micro-hydroelectric generator or micro-hydro house, microturbine, and micro motor/generator which produces direct current (DC). DC is the most common type of micro power generation used in homes and buildings because it can be stored easily with deep cycle batteries.

The micro hydropower plant equipment is connected to a micro hydropower house which contains a micro-hydro controller and micro-generator set. The micro-hydro correctly controller warms up the micro generator, makes sure it’s generating electricity and manages the amount of current (amperage) it generates. An ammeter is used to measure the amount of microcurrent that a micro-hydroelectric generator is producing.

A micro-hydro controller also regulates the flow of microcurrent from the micro-hydro powerhouse to micro hydropower house batteries and other equipment. For example, if there are no batteries connected micro-hydro controller will regulate the amount of direct current (DC) going from micro-hydro power correctly plant equipment to micro hydropower house batteries.


Can a water turbine power a house?

Yes, it can be done.

Off-grid hydropower is one of the most affordable and simplest forms of micro-hydropower systems. It’s not just for off-grid houses or cabins anymore. More micro-hydro harnessing is being used in grids across the world.

What are some disadvantages of hydroelectric generators?

A micro-hydro generator can generate enough electricity for a single house, but it could not provide power to a large community. If the micro-hydro is developed next to a coal-fired plant, then micro-hydro will have an impact on water quality.

How much does a micro-hydro system cost?

The micro hydropower system is sustainable energy that costs nothing to run. It requires no fuel and is environmentally friendly. That being said, many factors affect the price of a micro hydropower system. A micro-hydro generator can cost from £1,500 up to £10,000 depending on what kind of kit you are looking for.

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