Rural Micro-hydro Turbines

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In-stream hydrokinetic energy is a largely untapped renewable energy source and has the potential to be a very helpful avenue for smaller scale power generation around the world, especially where little or no power exists. Many rural communities are completely without electricity, or rely on diesel generators which can be expensive to operate and are detrimental to the environment. A clean, stable source of electricity can empower rural communities to be healthier, more productive, more comfortable, and more connected to the rest of the world. The energy in this project is derived from a free flowing stream of water with the use of a turbine and the necessary components of energy conversion. With this application, energy can be harvested from a river or stream without the use of a dam, or penstock, minimizing the impact on the environment. Another benefit to in-stream hydrokinetic energy is the lower up-front costs which can be a great advantage in developing countries.

This project will include the design, build, and testing of the major components of the entire unit locally in the Pacific Northwest. The second phase of the project will be implementation in East Africa. A vertical axis Darrieus style turbine was chosen for ease of construction and repair. The turbine will be mounted on floats anchored to the stream bank, which greatly simplifies construction and allows the system to be moved in the future. The power conversion equipment is designed with durability, efficiency, and cost in mind. The turbine will be connected to an AC generator for greater reliability, and the electrical output will be DC to charge battery systems for appliances and small buildings. This allows for energy storage during times when all generated energy is not being used. The last area of study, the controls, performs a variety of functions such as system shut off in a generator overdrive situation, power take off efficiency, and initial rotor startup. Efficiency, amount of energy harvested, and usefulness as a viable energy source are results obtained from testing the entire system in local streams and rivers before being deployed in Africa. With the testing results, improvements and new ideas will be considered. The final product will be analyzed for cost-effectiveness in developing countries, and if necessary, refined to create the most affordable solution for rural communities.
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