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"pico" hydroelectric with a hacked ECM permanent magnet circulator?

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by pybyr, Oct 10, 2008.

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  1. pybyr

    pybyr Minister of Fire

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    OK, the stormy ol' brain has another idea on which I solicit ideas from the Boiler Room's hive mind--

    others, far more experienced than me, have noted and actually applied and made work the idea that some pumps work remarkably well as turbines, and that some motors work remarkably well as generators when hooked to some appropriate pumps running backwards as turbines.

    A retired minister in southern VT did this in the late 70s (with the active help of Steve Kleinschmidt, whose name now adorns one of the primary hydro consulting firms in north america) and wrote a great book about it that I read about a year ago- I forget the title, but could find it if it matters. He actually entered into a special contract with his utility, VT Electric Co-Op to do "net metering" _way_ before that idea was even a glimmer in anyone else's eye.

    So- recently, looking at some literature given me by a friend who is in the HVAC wholesale trade, about some of the newest barely-in-north-america permanent magnet/ intelligent circulators, and seeing a cross-sectional diagram of all of their details of carefully-designed volutes and high efficiency pump rotors and rare-earth magnet motors--

    and since my household water comes from a gravity flow spring that pushes about 1.5 gallons per minute through a pipe through my cellar, round the clock- year round-

    I got to thinking-

    why couldn't I maybe "back-hack" a permanent magnet circ, deleting the electronic controls, as a "pico hydro" turbine/ generator

    obviously, I am in the single-digits-of-watts- not kilo-or-megawatts category here, but if it makes reliable power, even if small, some substantial portion of 24/7/365 (except when the house is drawing water) with no substantial investment in a dam or pipe, then this could be the reverse of the "ghost load" that we all read about of various appliances that draw substantial KWH, over time, even as they sit dormant.

    and yes, I'd need to rectify/ store/ invert the "pico hydro's" varying electrical output in order to make it useful for anything, but I already understand that, and that is actually getting simpler and simpler, and cheaper with some of the smarter and smarter inverter technology that is emerging for small wind applications

    Ideas, reactions, constructive critiques, sources, contacts, or ideas on any of the euro PM motor circ makers, importers, distributors, etc., who might donate a carcass of a pump plus permanent magnet motor, without brain, for me to hack around with to try this?

    Thanks!

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  2. free75degrees

    free75degrees New Member

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    Where would you put this?
  3. KarlK

    KarlK Member

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    I have the same setup as you I have a spring that is approx 60' higher than my house that I get my water from. The spring puts out approx 60 gallon per min. I wanted to go with solar but thought why not use micro hydro because like you said its 24-7-365 . Any information you have would help. I dont know much about micro hydro but would like to learn.
  4. free75degrees

    free75degrees New Member

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    never mind, I must have read your post too fast, i see it now
  5. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    There was a recent thread on this in the green room with a site that sold the equipment. Probably much more efficient to buy the generator, than to do a hack. It looks like fun.
  6. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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  7. pybyr

    pybyr Minister of Fire

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    I cannot conceal my envious drool- 60 feet of head with 60 gallons per minute, if that's really what you have, can make some moderately serious power!!!

    My spring is dinky in flow by comparison, but it's there, complete with 450 yards of buried pipe from the spring to my cellar, and it does keep on' a flowin'

    look at

    http://kohlerandlewis.com/textsite/HPower.html

    and dig up a copy of the book

    How to build & operate your own small hydroelectric plant / by J. George Butler. (published around 1983 by TAB Books)
  8. pybyr

    pybyr Minister of Fire

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  9. pybyr

    pybyr Minister of Fire

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    Thanks, but I looked into that equipment before, and at least in terms of the pipe that already brings the water to and through my cellar, even the smallest of the off-the shelf microhydro stuff is "too big" for my flow rate

    that's why I'm calling it "pico" hydro rather than "micro" hydro

    I bet if I could put in a bigger pipe from my spring, I could get more flow to the cellar, but with 450 yards of pipe between spring and cellar, with over half of that through swamp and ledge (I still marvel at how anyone laid the original pipe in the first place!) the payback period for installing larger pipe would be- well- dubious.

    so this is more about the idea of playing with something that's there now, and, with the water already flowing between the spring and my basement drain (except when filling my house's domestic 350 gallon holding tank) any free watts is good watts, in my book, if I can get an appropriately tiny turbine that'll generate some watts without costing absurd amounts

    Thanks
  10. KarlK

    KarlK Member

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    Thanks pybyr I do have 60'rise and 60gpm I bought an old farm and years back the spring fed 4 houses that now dont use the spring. I think that as the homes changed to new owners the bank made them have there own wells. The best part is there are 3- 1-1/4" lines that run past my house that went to the other homes. These lines are capped now. I dont know how many gpm I would get out of these or how much power they would make. Also whats different between
    ' micro and pico ?
  11. pybyr

    pybyr Minister of Fire

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    first, let me exit my geeky speak- micro is 1/1000 and pico is 1/1,000,000 so I was making a nerdy inside joke about my hydro potential being really ridiculously small

    second, "microhydro" is less-than-power company size, but still significant, as in enough to help power one or several houses.

    if you own the site of the spring, and you are sure that the houses that used to be served by the spring have given up any and all legal as well as "practical" right to ever use it again (and the distinction is important, and you'll need to check with a licensed lawyer in your State) then it sounds like you may have a HECK OF A SITE for small hydro

    look around some here:

    http://www.microhydropower.com/

    and at sites I referenced above, for some ideas.

    If I had elevation and flow like you're describing (and don't make any assumptions about flow based on pipe size) I'd be exploring the potential like mad
  12. Redox

    Redox Minister of Fire

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    I don't think I've ever seen a permanent magnet circulator, unless it was in the bilge of a boat somewhere. ;-)

    Unless there's something I'm missing, even the ECM motors have a steel core and depend on the current through the windings for their magnetism. DC motors are usually permanent magnet, but not all the time and they have brush maintenance issues.

    Chris
  13. KarlK

    KarlK Member

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    pybyr thanks for your reply. I checked my gpm by building a weir. That is the totol gpm at the spring I dont know what the gpm is If I use the existing pipe.
  14. pybyr

    pybyr Minister of Fire

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    at least from what I picked up from a fun chat on the phone after hours with a Wilo Canada tech a week and a half ago, some of their "smart" ECM circs like the Stratos are now using permanent magnet DC electronically-commutated (that's the E.C. in ECM) _totally_ brushless motors, with rare earth permanent magnets in the rotor, both because of the available resulting efficiency and torque, and because they can then actually use sensors and algorithms to follow the leading or lagging magnetic fields to have the microprocessor brain that's controlling the thing turn the RPM up or down to meet required/ spec'd GPM flow

    Apparently Grundfos is doing the same-

    SEE:
    www.grundfos.com/web/homecbs.nsf/Grafikopslag/pdf2/$file/permanent magnet.pdf -

    take such technology, skip the microprocesor brain, spin it backwards with a flow of gravity-pushed water, and send the resulting AC waveform into a proper polyphase rectifier and/ or smart inverter, and you'd be into makin at least a few watts!

    and a few watts, per hour, every hour, every day, gradually add up into kilowatt-hours.

    Not only could this be handy for those of us in the developed world, think of the potential for small but useful contributions to non-fossil energy in other places
  15. pybyr

    pybyr Minister of Fire

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    WOW. I am embarassed to admit how jealous I am of your spring compared to mine. I am rusty on my physics, but not so rusty as to miss the basics that 60 GPM at 60 feet of head is, especially with some of the new options of permanent magnet alternators, direct drive turbines, and smart inverters, enough to do some interesting stuff with, especially if there isn't a huge horizontal distance from your spring to the "bottom" place that you could locate a turbine at the base of the 60 foot drop.

    You probably would do well to nix the batch of separate small pipes and put in a single large diameter pipe, as long as the amount of excavation and material isn't too much and it won't freeze. Less "head loss" that way. See Geo Butler's book, though, about the freezing headaches.

    If I had a site and flow like that sounds like yours might add up to, I'd be doing math and figuring details with a passion, with a not-too-far-fetched possibility of either going off-grid or keeping the "best of both worlds" that could be represented by having the grid as your backup/ flywheel, while using an IEEE 929 rated inverter to grid-tie, and doing "net metering" and also perhaps working a deal with your local electric distribution utility to "split the resulting gravy" of the renewables credits, as best your state utilities commission and your local utility will allow. don't let 'em sell you short, either, as there's money here not only for you, in savings, but, maybe, for others who might properly, if asked, share with you.

    But as mentioned above, before going too far down the analytical or physical paths, you need to know for sure that you have the sole rights to this spring and its flow, and that any former properties or users served by it have formally disclaimed it, in writing, with all due formality the same as a deed to property.

    PM me if this is interesting. I am blessed or cursed with being the Intergalactic Emporer of Too Many Ideas and Projects and Resulting Loose Ends All At Once, but would be glad to spend at least 20 minutes on the PM or phone with you in hopes of pointing you in some helpful directions, and staying in touch on a loose basis to help
  16. Redox

    Redox Minister of Fire

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    Might wanna try the bilge pump idea before tearing into one of those high zoot circs. The payback is likely to be a little long on a $200 pump.

    Chris
  17. sweetheat

    sweetheat Member

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    try katahdinenergyworks.com a good source for hydro stuff. sweetheat
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