Hydroelectric Survival: Electricity is the ultimate power of convenience. It had a massive effect on history, providing us with all the necessary power to build the luminous future world we live in today. It revolutionized our species’ fate.
It’s not news to anyone that electricity is a valuable survival tool. That’s part of the reason it was such an impactful discovery – practically everything became easier, faster, safer with electric assistance. Technology began advancing at a faster and faster rate, until we ended up here: 2017, a world painfully dependent on electric access.
Which is a scary sentiment. Because should mankind, for whatever reason or by whatever means, start slipping into disarray, sliding into chaos and violence and mayhem, our electric grid would be one of the first modern amenities to go. It is a fragile and rather tenuous system, after all. And should that happen, most everyone will lose access to electricity: communication everywhere would be debilitated. Heating for houses and buildings would vanish. Public water sources would shut down. Lights would go out.
Unless, of course, you have an alternate personal power source. Lots of people use gasoline generators, but these are neither sustainable, nor clean, nor totally reliable (gasoline only has a shelf-life of 90-100 days, and in an extreme situation, gasoline production is likely to stop). But one thing that you can always count on, even in an EMP-nuclear-zombie-Armageddon, is gravity. And one special type of electric generation uses the power of gravity to harness electricity from moving water: Hydroelectric power.
The concept behind hydroelectricity is relatively simple, and in fact, the idea has been around for a very long time. It has been tried and tested and proven to be a reliable method of energy production. And it is clean, quiet and relatively simple to build and install a generator. All one needs is running water, access to tools and hardware supplies, and a strong will to prepare and survive.
Like I mentioned, this idea is nothing new. The ancient Greeks were using water wheels to grind wheat into flour. Those big wooden waterwheels, while iconic and impressive, were neither efficient nor effective for harnessing hydropower – they were so large and heavy they created a lot of torque, which wasted a lot of energy. Despite this, they were widely used for centuries.
In the 1700’s the engineering of hydropower had something of a renaissance that has lasted well into the modern age. Water wheels were replaced with turbines, which have been refined and perfected, and now generate a lot more power than they used to.
The general concept behind hydroelectricity is relatively simple: flowing water is powered by gravity, which moves downhill and gives it kinetic energy. To extract that from the moving water we need something (ie a water-wheel or a water-turbine) which the water can exert its kinetic force upon. Think about the Greeks: they put a wheel in a river, the river spun the wheel, and the wheel ground wheat to flour. The concept hasn’t changed, except instead of putting the power generated by the water directly towards a specific task, we convert that power into electricity via a generator and store the electricity for later use.
There are a number of different methods for generating hydroelectric power. Conventional systems use a large dam, from which the water flow can be controlled and the electricity generated by many large turbines. There are also run-of-the-river systems, which make the most of the kinetic energy of flowing rivers without reservoirs and sometimes even without dams. Micro-hydroelectric projects can power a home or small village. And finally, pumped storage hydroelectric projects, which store water uphill from the generator and run it downhill to create energy when needed.
How To Build a Hydroelectric Generator
I am not going to get into the gritty details involved with building one of these things. Engineers write entire books on this subject, and I am not nearly qualified to do the same. So I will keep it simple – keep it general:
The Stator and the Rotor
The most important part of any hydroelectric system is the Stator and Rotor. These two pieces makeup the part of the generator, which actually generates the electricity. The Stator is a stationary outer shell, within which the rotator rotates; it is equipped with wire coils, which act to collect the electricity. The Rotor is filled with magnets, attached to the waterwheel/blades and spins inside of the Stator.
Because this piece of equipment is so essential to creating a functional hydroelectric generator, I would opt to buy one instead of building it yourself. If you want to ensure that you are getting the most out of your hydroelectric generator, it is better to simply buy a professionally constructed Rotor/Stator setup. It ensures maximum efficiency, and minimum human error.
A General Model
Find a place where you can run water form a water source, down a pipeline to your turbine. River bends work nicely because you can place the “intake” relatively close to the “powerhouse”. This is the rule of thumb for volumetric flow: one needs at least 3 feet of fall and 20 gallons per minute of flow (keep in mind that with more fall, less water flow is needed to generate the same amount of power, so do your math before breaking ground).
The water is collected at the intake via a small canal, which funnels the water into the transport pipe. Gravity carries that water downhill to the generator, where it spins the water-wheel/blades, which in turn spin the Rotor inside of the Stator, creating electricity. Run that, through a cable to a rechargeable battery and you have power! Pretty radical. Especially since this system will create and store electricity non-stop 24/7, regardless of whether or not the grid is up and running. All you need is enough storage space (i.e. batteries) or outputs to use the electricity through.
It is also possible to put a waterwheel or turbine directly into a water source and collect energy thusly (i.e. a run-of-the-river system), but this makes it harder to control water flow and increases risk of damage due to flooding or debris.
What To Expect
Obviously, building a waterwheel in a creek and sticking a Stator/Rotor system in it won’t be easy and won’t satisfy all of your electrical needs. There are a lot of serious factors to take into account when mulling over a hydroelectric system. So, here’s a list of realistic, important pros, cons and other considerations:
- Clean energy, good for the environment, free and sustainable.
- Diverse setup – can be installed almost anywhere there’s a big enough stable source of running water.
- Will work for as long as gravity is doing its job – not dependent on the government, private companies or other people at all.
- Runs 24/7
- The more generators you install, the more power you have.
- Floods can damage or destroy hydroelectric equipment – the closer proximity to the water the higher the risk.
- Droughts can be a real bummer – without flowing water hydroelectricity doesn’t do much good for anyone.
- Often times one must monitor water for debris that could damage equipment.
- Generators require routine maintenance and upkeep.
- Power output varies depending on water flow.
Unfortunately, there might also be some legal restrictions regarding the construction of hydroelectric apparatus on your property. Some regional and local ordinances might prohibit the practice entirely, while others outline some strict guidelines. There is usually paperwork involved with constructing this sort of thing – so check with your local government to see what you need to do.
In some places, if you have excess power that your generator generates, you can sell that energy back to utility companies for a profit – offsetting construction and maintenance costs on your end. This service isn’t available everywhere. However, it is absolutely worth checking into if you are serious about setting up a hydroelectric generator on your property.
A Powerful Fluid
Water is one of the most powerful forces on Earth. It has carved out canyons, shaped mountains, destroyed civilizations, created life… I can’t think of a mightier influence this planet has ever had. And we can harness its massive potential energy, collect it and transform it into light, and heat, and movement – hydroelectric survival. Unlocking these secrets unlocks mankind’s ultimate power of convenience.
Hydroelectricity is sustainable, reliable, off-grid, personal power. It is a way to ensure your own private electricity reserve for both everyday life, and in case of an emergency. Harnessing the power of moving water will almost surely help secure your survival.
If you liked this post, click here to learn about 8 Ways to Generate Electricity at Home!
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Featured image via Wikimedia Commons
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