How to Build a Small Scale Hydrokinetic Turbine at Home

How to Build a Small Scale Hydrokinetic Turbine at Home

Introduction

Building a small scale hydrokinetic turbine at home can be an exciting and rewarding project. Hydrokinetic turbines harness the kinetic energy of moving water to generate electricity. On a small scale, these turbines can be used to power various household electrical needs in an environmentally friendly way. With some basic materials and components, you can build a fully functional hydrokinetic turbine in your garage or backyard. In this comprehensive guide, I will walk you through the entire process step-by-step.

Design Considerations

Before starting the build, there are some key design factors to consider:

Turbine Type

There are two main types of hydrokinetic turbines:

  • Horizontal axis – The rotor shaft runs parallel to the direction of water flow. These are easier to build but less efficient.
  • Vertical axis – The rotor shaft runs perpendicular to water flow. More complex but can harness more power.

For a first-time home build, a horizontal axis turbine is recommended.

Turbine Size

The size of your turbine will depend on factors like:

  • Available water flow rate
  • Desired power output
  • Size constraints

For a residential backyard stream, a 1-3 foot diameter turbine would be sufficient.

Materials

Commonly used materials:

  • PVC or metal for structural components
  • Wood blades or repurposed plastic
  • Magnets, copper wire and metal coils for power generation

Aim for waterproof, corrosion-resistant materials.

Components

The main components you will need are:

Rotor / Blades

This includes the blades and hub that captures flowing water.

  • A 3-blade horizontal axis design is common
  • Blade shape will impact efficiency

Generator

Converts rotation into electrical energy.

  • Small AC or DC generators can be sourced online
  • Permanent magnet generators are easiest to integrate

Mounting system

Secures the turbine in place.

  • Use a metal pole, frame or float
  • Allows adjustment of depth and angle

Power storage / conditioning

Stores and regulates power output.

  • Batteries to store energy
  • Charge controller to control voltage and current

Underwater cable

Transmits power from the turbine to land.

  • Submersible electrical cable rated for underwater use

Construction

Follow these steps to build your turbine:

1. Design and Size Blades

  • Calculate desired blade length and shape based on rotation speed and efficiency targets.
  • Cut blades out of wood using a jigsaw. Apply waterproof coatings.
  • Attach blades to the hub at equal spacing.

2. Mount Generator

  • Attach the generator to the turbine hub using a coupling or direct drive.
  • Ensure proper shaft alignment and sealed connections.

3. Build Turbine Frame

  • Construct a waterproof outer frame to house all components using PVC, metal or wood.
  • Include mounts for the generator, blades, and mounting system.

4. Add Mounting System

  • Build or install a pole, frame or floating platform to mount the turbine underwater.
  • Use a pivoting mount to adjust depth and angle as needed.

5. Connect Power Cables

  • Run a submersible electrical cable from the generator along the mounts.
  • Connect cable to batteries and charge controller on land.

6. Install Turbine

  • Position the turbine in flowing water such as a stream or canal.
  • Adjust depth and angle for maximum power output.

7. Test and Troubleshoot

  • Start water flow and check for smooth rotation and power generation.
  • Make adjustments to depth, angle or balance to optimize.

Conclusion

Building a small scale hydrokinetic turbine is an achievable DIY project using common materials and basic components. Proper design, sizing and positioning will allow you to extract green energy from any flowing water source. With some testing and tweaking, you will be able to power various electrical systems using free renewable energy.