Hydroelectric power systems that are designed to produce upto 100 kW of power is known as micro hydro systems. Such small power systems are primarily designed to complement power supply in remote places for small communities or isolated houses. Availability of appropriate water source that is capable to produce electricity, economical viability of project and seasonal variations of water flow are some considerations for installing this power system. In many areas micro hydro systems are installed to complement solar energy system. Logic behind such plan is simple. Availability of hydro power is determined by flow or speed of water. This is highest in winter when solar energy is at minimum.
Construction of micro hydro plants may vary depending on the site but there are some common elements in all such plants. There should be supply of water in the form of river or mountain stream or waterfall. Usually such installations do not have dam or reservoir and depend mostly on the minimal flow of water round the year. In some cases, existing mill pond or reservoirs may be adapted for power production. An intake structure is required to filter out fishes and floating debris. Depending on prevalent climatic conditions the structure must be capable to resist ice flowing with water. A gate is essential for the intake to maintain it properly.
Water from source moves through a pipe (penstock), or power canal to the turbine. When the turbine and water source are far from each other, construction of penstock is difficult, especially in hilly terrains. Speed of the turbine and flow of water is regulated by controlling valve. Flow and pressure of water turns the turbine and emerge out from the turbine to natural watercourse through tailrace channel. The turbine turns a generator that is connected to electrical loads. Usually the generator is directly connected to the building or community electrical distribution system.
Improvements made in the fields of modern power electronics have made controls and operations of generator easier. The generator can now generate at an arbitrary frequency but the output is feed through an inverter to ensure grid frequency. Power electronics also use permanent magnet alternators to stabilize wild alternate current.
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