Personal hydro electric devices are not something that is talked much about among green builders and sustainability experts, but rivers and streams offer a continuously moving source of power that could easily be used by rural home owners with little to no affect on the local wildlife.
How Hydro Electricity Works
Water is very similar to air in the way it moves. When it is moving, it moves in a rolling motion making it easy to catch on a propeller device or a wheel. The water flowing past the prop or wheel spins it building up electricity in an alternator device that distributes the electricity created to the house. The more constant the source of moving water, the more constant the flow of electricity.
The reliability of wind power and solar power is one of the issues that critics have with this technology, as it cannot support 100% of energy usage all year around. Hydro electricity, in the right site and applied correctly, can produce all of the electricity needed to supply a house. The Hoover Dam is one of the most consistent power sources in North America, providing California, Arizona, and Nevada with a significant amount of their electricity.
The Challenge of Hydro Electric Power
The greatest challenge associated with hydro electric power is diverting the water through the prop or wheel device so that it does not effect the surrounding environment. Some of the more successful systems like this are prop like turbines that are vertically dropped into the water so the prop can turn the direction of the water flow. This setup requires a structure over the top of the river or stream instead of a dam like structure.
The biggest issue with the design of hydro electric dams and props is keeping the expense for the structures down enough to justify the project. Creating a dam cost millions of dollars. Building a structure over a river requires specific clearances and special use permits form the Department of Wildlife and Forestry. Some of these projects may not be allowed to be completed if the river is traveled frequently by personal water craft.
Hydro electric power is one of the cleanest, most reliable energy production methods that humans have developed. This technology will continue to be one of the largest sources of electrical power in the United States until we can figure out a better way to produce electricity.