Solutions for Self-Reliance

Small-Scale Hydroelectric Power – A DIY Hydropower Case Study


I really love to find do-it-yourself projects that push the boundaries of what’s possible in resilient living.  I think many of you do too.

So, today’s extreme DIY hydro-electric power example is by Mannfred Mornhinweg in Chile. Mannfred has a stream and some steep slopes on his property that he thought would make an excellent source of hydro-electric power.

Naturally, as a tinkerer (like the Wright Brothers and the Woz), he decided to launch a project to take advantage of the opportunity.

The result is a home-scale hydro-electric system that produces an electrical base load of 4 kW (he thinks he can tweak it to get over 5-6 kW with some work).

Fortunately, Mannfred has lots of great neighbors and friends to help him with all of the heavy work involved.

To get a sense of what’s involved, see the above picture gallery of some of the components that went into the project, from the spillway at the top of the hill that captures the water, to the transformers at the bottom of the hill that power his home.

If you are interested, you can read a more detailed blow by blow recount of the project at Mannfred’s site.

Some of the problems Mannfred ran into:

  • Hydro-engineering problems.  Mannfred ran into lots of problems directing the flow of the stream w/o erosion.
  • Debris. There’s lots of debris in the water during the rainy season.
  • Faulty wiring on the Chinese equipment he bought. It’s cheap but watch out.
  • Difficulties getting his concrete to set correctly (it was hard to get sand to the location he needed it).
  • The fear of pipeline ruptures given the twists and turns required to navigate the landscape.

Mannfred is the type of DIY innovator that makes building resilient communities possible. We need to find ways to help innovators like him along in their efforts since every step forward they take, makes it easier for the rest of us.

Your enthusiastic about resilience through innovative DIY projects analyst,

John Robb

PS:  Mannfred has an extensive project list if you are interested.

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