Hydro Systems Overview
Water power is the combination of HEAD and FLOW.
Consider a typical hydro system. Water is diverted from a stream into a pipeline, where it is carried downhill and through the turbine (FLOW). The vertical drop (HEAD) creates pressure at the bottom end of the pipeline. The pressurized water emerging from the end of the pipe creates the force that that drives the turbine. More FLOW, or more HEAD, produces more power.
HEAD and FLOW are the two most important things you need to know about your site. You must have these measurements before you can seriously discuss your project, the power it will generate, or the cost of components. As you will see, every aspect of a hydro system revolves around Head and Flow. Remember:
Net HEAD and Design FLOW are used to specify hydro system components.
The importance of accurate Head and Flow measurements cannot be overemphasized. Later in this Guide, we’ll discuss How to Measure Head and Flow.
In reality, the generation of electricity is simply the conversion of one form of power to another. The turbine converts water power into rotational power at its shaft, which is then converted to electrical power by the generator. It is important to note:
The simple formula for this is:
Net Power = Gross Power x Efficiency
While some power losses are inevitable as water power gets converted to electricity, they can be minimized with good design. Each aspect of your hydro system, from water intake to turbine-generator alignment, affects efficiency. Turbine design is especially important; a good turbine supplier will work closely with you to specify a turbine with dynamic operating characteristics that match your Head and Flow.
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