Are Off-Grid Hydropower Systems Viable on the Homestead?
Exploring Hydropower Renewable Energy Sources on the Homestead
When my grandfather was a boy, his family operated the only grist mill in the parish. He had to quit school when he was in the third grade to help them farm and run the mill. It was powered using hydropower from Toro Creek. Of course, it wasn’t considered off-grid hydropower to them because there was no grid in the area.
Harnessing the power of water to provide power, warmth, coolness, food and drink has been around for all recorded history. There are historical references to watermills for various industries in towns as well as individual use on farms.
History records the Han Dynasty, as far back as 202 B.C., harnessing the power of falling water to process grain, make paper, and crush mined minerals such as ore. In 1771, in Derwent Valley, England, Richard Arkwright set up Cromford Mill. He established the mill to be the first hydropower cotton spinning mill. This was the first of many factories to pop up using hydropower as their energy source.
Is an Off-Grid Hydropower System Right for Your Homestead?
The beauty of off-grid hydropower is any home located near or on the banks of a year-round water source can provide its own energy needs and then some. If you live in a cold climate, it’s necessary to know if your water source will freeze in the winter. The river would have to be moving swiftly and deep enough to not freeze over in a cold weather climate.
Alternative energy sources require us to consider not only our needs but also the availability of resources. We base our decisions on these two things.
There are other ways of harnessing the power of water besides the traditional water paddle wheel, gear-driven system. As long as you have falling water, the hydropower system is straight forward. Micro-Hydro Water Turbine Generators are considered a valuable investment for those choosing to use an off-grid hydropower system.
The turbine generators are easy to install. Almost any person with basic knowledge can install them, so I’m told. They can be cost effective, averaging around $1,200 but can also be extravagant at around $50,000.
However, as with all things in life, this is relative to your income, goals and experience. One of the nicest things about off-grid hydropower systems is that it doesn’t cause any harm to river life or the creatures that live there while powering off-grid generators or direct power systems. The speed of the water wheel is in direct proportion to the power output.
Using an Off-Grid Hydropower System on the Homestead
Most people who set up this kind of system also set up either solar power or wind power or any combination thereof. This is to ensure the supply of power regardless of weather or climate changes. Basic wind energy facts and solar power knowledge helps any homesteader decide which of these power sources are available and will work for their homestead.
Many homestead farmers use irrigation from off-grid hydropower to supply their fields, gardens, livestock and homes with water. The simplest method of irrigating large fields is to use a system of shallow trenches dug throughout the field. The turbine engines or water paddle wheel transfer water into a main pool which feeds the trenches for fields and gardens, watering holes for livestock or to a household water storage tank.
If you can’t afford a turbine generator system or simply prefer building your own off-grid hydropower system, a paddle wheel can be built from repurposed wood or metal around your homestead. You can even barter or find good deals at your local salvage yard. Parts and pieces of old engines, like a motorcycle, car, or even lawnmowers can be used to power the wheel since all you need it to do is turn.
Besides creating electricity for the home and watering crops, an off-grid hydropower system can also be used to run radiator and boiler heating systems. You can even hook it straight to a wood stove hot water heater. In some countries, a radiator system is also used to cool the house in the summer. With no heat source connected to the system, cool water is circulated through it cooling the air around it so cooling the room.
Early Use of Hydropower Systems
In 1878, a single lamp in a country house in Northumberland, England was powered by hydroelectricity. This was the world’s first hydro-powered electric project.
In 1882, the first plant designed to power homes and businesses was opened in Wisconsin. Over the next 10 years, hundreds of hydropower plants were in operation. So began the rush to build the electrical systems across the United States.
It’s odd to note that there aren’t as many hydropower systems in use on the grid now as there were then. There are more fossil fuel driven plants than anything else.
As the power grid begins to degrade, more and more people are looking for off-grid power solutions. An off-grid hydropower system is a viable option for those with a year-round water source on their homestead.
Do you have an off-grid hydropower system on your homestead? Please share your experience and skill with us in the comments.
Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack