Power Lines

Most microhydro systems produce low – voltage DC electricity that travels in a wire to the battery bank. Because low-voltage current doesn’t travel well — it loses energy quickly over distance — it is best to keep power lines from the turbine/generator short, under 100 feet. If this is not possible, you will need to use large-gauge wire, which costs much more than standard wire.


Jeffe Aronson installed a low-head micro­hydro system on a stream running through his property in Australia. He did so by building a small concrete dam across part of the river. Although friends recommended that he complete the project without per­mits and "let the bureaucrats find it if they could," Jeffe decided to secure the necessary permits and work with local authorities. In fact, he made a point of working with them in a cooperative fashion — and not showing anger or frustration at some of their quirks. In short, he established a good, respectful working relationship/A couple years later," Aronson writes in Home Power, Issue 101, a visiting angler, "who had fished this sec­tion of river for decades and considered it his own, came upon our works." The

angler was outraged and, rather than con­sult Jeffe, he sent a complaint to the water catchment authority. "They sent a repre­sentative with whom wed dealt originally," said Aronson. "He thankfully found that wed done what wed said wed do and even felt the works to be Very discreet."’ And that was the end of the story. The lesson in this tale is that permitting may be a bother, but it can save you a lot of hassle and expense. In fact, government agencies can force a landowner to remove a sys­tem that cost several thousand dollars to install, if they catch him or her generating microhydro without a permit.

Ask a local supplier or installer to find out what permits are required. If there are no local experts, you will need to call the states office of environmental protection or state energy office. They can steer you in the right direction.

Updated: September 27, 2015 — 12:22 am