Installing an ESD LH1000 A Micro hydro Evolution Article describing the installation of an ESD LH1000 low head machine

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Courtesy of Energy Systems & Design (ES&D)

Every morning, before brushing teeth or having a look at the weather outside our Victoria, Australia, off-grid home, my wife Carrie or I pad downstairs to the battery room to check the meters that monitor our electrical system. The reading determines whether we use the propane stove or the electric jug to heat water for our tea. Since our microhydro plant upgrade, it’s usually the jug.

This ritual has become a part of our daily lives, like making the bed: A quick look at battery voltage and power from our microhydro system. It used to be a stomach-churning moment for us: Our previous microhydro turbine was dysfunctional too often due to its poor design, which meant a trip down to the river to clean the turbine blades—an uncomfortable and sometimes life-endangering task. Since replacing that “experiment” with an Energy Systems & Design (ES&D) LH1000 low-head turbine, complete with a prototype “leaf-mulcher,” and new PV modules to back up the hydro, off-grid life’s simply blissful.

Off-Grid with Comfort
Living in the most remote part of the Victorian Alps, 15 kilometers (9.3 mi.) from the electric grid, has not reduced my appreciation for flipping a switch rather than filling and lighting kerosene lanterns, using circular saws instead of hand saws, or for using other time-savers like toasters and microwave ovens.

These days, although I’m an active 53 years old, I’m not content to spend my time chopping wood for cooking. Nor do I care to write by lantern light, or pull a coolish beer out of the river. Instead, I want plenty of free time to go trekking, kayaking, and skiing. Plus, I like my beer ice cold!

For the first few years, we had big problems with our original, locally engineered hydro plant (see “Choosing Microhydro…” in HP101). We feared that we’d made a huge mistake, as our time, money, and energy was sucked into the hydro like leaves. Friends and neighbors shook their heads at our folly. But our recent turbine upgrade has markedly reduced our “power plant management” needs, freeing several daily hours for ourselves, and now our off-grid life is good.

Microhydro Madness
It wasn’t until after we installed our first contraption that we discovered it was a manufacturer’s experiment in low-head axial turbines. Its many 90-degree angles impeded flow, making it inefficient. Its access port to the blades was too small for an average-sized adult, and usually under water, making debris clearing a freezing-cold, often dangerous nightmare. We kept a cardboard “turbine box” near the back door stocked with a dry suit, goggles, snorkel, life jacket, and safety rope. No kidding.

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