Since the invention of electricity, scientists and inventors like Thomas Edison and Michael Faraday through innovation and invention discovered ways of harnessing electricity for practical use. Their discoveries literally revolutionized everything, from personal life to business to communications.
Electricity made life easier. Technology advanced more rapidly transforming the way we do things to the point where now the world has become completely dependent on electricity. Which is quite scary because we have seen the consequences of civil wars and how natural disasters can easily destroy electric grids leaving towns and cities in utter darkness. No communication, no heat, no water, no lights; basically, everything that people depend on, that requires electricity to run becomes ineffectual. Of course, unless you have an alternative source of power.
Many people use gas and diesel generators, which are not clean, sustainable or entirely reliable. The problem with those is that at some point you will run out of fuel or gas, and darkness comes. But one source of energy that has proven to be reliable is hydroelectric power. It is extremely well suitable for survival situations because of it does not require any fuel or gas, just flowing water.
The idea behind hydroelectric power is quite simple and as a matter of fact, it has existed for centuries. This idea has been tested and has proven to be an effective and reliable method of power generation. Hydroelectricity is not only sustainable, it is also clean and quiet. Even the method and process of building a generator is not sophisticated and does not require high-tech tools.
The Concept of Hydroelectric Power Generation
As aforementioned, the idea behind hydroelectric power generation has existed for hundreds of years. In 4000 BC, the Greeks used the water wheel for milling flour. The waterwheels were made of wood and they were big in size. Although these structures were quite impressive, they were not effective or efficient for generating hydropower. Moreover, the waterwheels were so huge and heavy that they created a great deal of torsion, which resulted into too much energy wastage.
However, in the 17th century, there was a significant advancement in hydropower technology, which led to the use of turbines in place of the waterwheels. Throughout the years, the turbines were reinvented over and over and were perfected. Today, the modern turbines generate more power than the earlier versions.
There are many sizes of generators from big dam structures with huge turbines to small almost portable models. If you are planning to harness power of water for survival purposes, you might want to focus on these smaller generators.
The Mechanics of a Hydroelectric Generator
The general idea behind hydroelectric power generation is quite simple. Basically, a generator is used to harness the power of flowing water to produce electrical energy. The way it works is, a power source turns the turbine, which then turns a metal shaft that is inside the electrical generator. This metal shaft is the motor that generates electricity.
The two most important components of a hydroelectric system are the Rotor and Stator. These components form part of the generator. The stator is the nonrotating electrical component of a generator, while the rotor is the rotating part of the electromagnetic system in the generator which spins around or within the stator. The stator contains wire coils, which work to gather the electricity. The rotor on the other hand contains magnets which are attached to the spins and blades within the stator.
Since these two components are very essential to building a working hydroelectric generator, it may be easier to buy an already constructed stator/rotor setup other than building one yourself.
The Workings of a Hydroelectric Generator
Hydroelectric power is generated when a generator converts the water’s kinetic energy into electricity.
The concept is quite simple. First of all, you need to locate a water body, this can be a river or dam, where there is fast running or falling water, which can be directed down a pipeline and into to the turbine.
Once the water hits the turbine with its sheer force, it spins the turbine. The turbine in turn, converts the energy from the descending water into mechanical energy. It then rotates the rotor, which is located within the stator, and as a result, produces electricity, which is then later converted into usable energy.
This energy is stored in batteries, so it is important that you have big batteries capable of storing a lot of energy. However, if batteries fail or you don’t have them, it’s still possible to use electricity directly from the generator as long as water in river etc. flows. This makes hydroelectric generators excellent power sources for survival situations.
The pros and cons of installing a hydroelectric system
Installing a hydroelectric system is not exactly complicated, but if you do not know exactly how to do it, it can get very tricky. It is well and good to try cut on costs by self-installing the system, but if it is not done correctly, the system may not work properly or even at all. Therefore, consider having a professional or expert to do it for you, especially if you are installing a large hydroelectric system or if you do not have any technical skills.
Hydroelectric systems offers many benefits, but there are disadvantages that come with installing the system. Let us look at the advantages and disadvantages of installing a hydroelectric system.
- Hydroelectric energy is clean and environmentally friendly, unlike fossil fuels.
- It is a reliable and sustainable, since it relies on water, a natural resource that is almost always available.
- It is a renewable source of energy.
- Setup is possible, as long as there is a source of falling or fast running water.
- Hydroelectric systems run 24/7 and as long as long as there is falling water and the system is operating properly.
- Operating a hydroelectric system is not illegal in many parts of the world and is not dependent private companies or the government.
- Compared to nuclear energy and fossil fuels, hydroelectric energy is a lot safer.
- You can generate more power by simply installing more generators and sell any excess power for a profit.
- The maintenance costs of hydropower plants are quite low.
- Hydropower can affect the quality and flow of water, and as a result, affect the fish habitats as well as the riparian habitats.
- Hydroelectric systems can suffer damage from heavy flooding, especially because they are near a water body. Also, natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tornadoes may also cause damage.
- Hydroelectric systems can be affected by drought. If there is little or no water, the hydropower system cannot produce electricity.
- The construction of large hydropower plants may result in flora and fauna losing their natural habitat and even human displacement.
- The water source must be constantly monitored for debris that could potentially damage equipment.
- Hydroelectric generators require regular maintenance and care.
- Power output is determined by the flow and volume of water.
- Hydropower plants are generally expensive to set up.
When all things considered, setting up a hydroelectric system may be costly at the beginning, but the benefits definitely outweigh the risks. Unfortunately, setting up a hydroelectric system may not be easy, especially if there are certain legal restrictions or requirements concerning the construction of the system in your area. In some regions, you may find that erecting a hydropower plant is completely prohibited. Therefore, check and find out from your local government what is required to set up the system if at all it is allowed. However, as we are speaking about preparedness, it could be that no one is going to be care about regulations, especially if you are building a small generator nearby your survival shelter in the middle of wilderness.
If you find that your generator is generating more power than you need, you can sell the excess power to utility companies or individuals for a profit and use that money to cover your maintenance and upkeep costs and even other personal expenses.
Hydroelectric power is fast becoming a primary source of power in many countries. However, given that without water, you cannot generate hydroelectric power, drought-stricken nations like the Philippines and Kenya, need a different form of renewable energy like wind energy.
Below is en excellent video about DIY water turbine for off-grid home
Since there are many other forms of renewable energy, such as biomass, wind power and solar power, you may opt for any of them, if it becomes too costly or complicated, or maybe impossible as there’s no flowing water nearby, to set up a hydropower plant. In any case, whichever form of renewable energy you decide to use, the benefits are pretty much the same. The bottom line is you will get clean, reliable and sustainable energy capable of powering your home or business, which in effect will help reduce if not completely eliminate your electricity bill and reliance of infrastructure. Most importantly you have your won energy source when the SHTF.