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DoradoVista - Small Hydro Power Project:


The goal of this Small Hydro project is to produce alternative energy to be used for powering the DoradoVista ranch with a surplus of Renewable Hydropower Energy to potentially sell on the grid:

For a great primer on Small Hydro Power (SHP), take a look at these "pdf" files from the "European Small Hydropower Association":

Small Hydro Power Guide Part 1:

Small Hydro Power Guide Part 2:

Pelton Wheel, Small Hydropower GeneratorNote: These 'pdf'  download files are pretty big at about 100 to 200 pages each. Be ready with the bandwidth and disk space.  They have lots of cool graphics, explanations and pictures even if you don't understand the engineering math.

The ESHA Small Hydro Guide is by far the best guide I have found with regard to setting up a small hydro and many of the issues that surround successful renewable energy generation.  Take a look at the European Small Hydropower Association --ESHA web site for lots more information*, even if you aren't looking at setting one up.  Of course each region of the world has its own set of issues and regulations to work out as well.  More on that later.

Feel free to have your friends join our Small & Micro Hydropower newsletter! Invite them by forwarding a recent copy of the newsletter. The recent newsletters and other hydroelectric reading material can be found at the following link:

For recent Small Hydro Power News see this page:

The technology and science of Small Hydro is quite interesting on its own merit. 

Simple Hydro Power model: (Hydropower Calculator page uses these formulas)

    (Head(ft) x Flow in Cubic Feet per Second) / 11.8   = P = KW output.  or
    (Head(ft) x Flow in Cubic Feet per Second) / 8.8     = HP output. 

    Then take KW output x Hrs producing x Generating Rate ($/KWH) =  $

Canyon Hydro, Small Hydropower Pelton Wheel HousingThe planned DoradoVista Ranch system is based on a renewable energy resource; Run Of the River Hydro power. The water is not stored except for head regulation and intake requirements, any excess water passes the intake and continues downstream. There is also an instream flow requirement that sets a minimum flow for continued health of the stream critters between the intake and power house. 

In our case we will start with a Canyon Hydro -- 350 kW Pelton wheel similar to the one picture above. This unit has a 350KW GE induction generator with servo control and grid switching gear. It is currently a 28 inch pitch Pelton wheel with a single 4.125 inch dia. nozzle (3.5 in effective jet) which can be upgraded to a two jet unit for more flow and therefore power. Our potential head is less than the design head so we will seek to increase flow. The variable jet control combined with the extra nozzle and pelton turbine gives a better range of efficiencies for our variable flow regime. A crossflow unit would probably be a better match but it has less efficiency. For lower head systems we would likely need a francis or kaplan hydro-turbine to better match the lower pressure and higher flows. Crossflow or Ossberger turbines can work well in both low and medium head situations over a wide range of flows.

Canyon Hydro, Stainless Steel 4 Inch jet diameter Pelton Hydropower NozzleThe goal for DoradoVista is to produce renewable energy with Net Zero green house gas and a minimum of ecological impact.  Just add water! No hydrocarbon fuel is used.

Hydrology is Important to Understand Hydroelectric Potential

Our creek has a hydrologic history of sufficient flows for a significant part of the year such that it should reasonably generate predictable electric power for 9 months per year. The 3 month late summer season will typically be used as down time for maintenance of the equipment. This will maintain a minimum instream flow to keep the creek ecologically balanced and healthy. A full FDC or flow duration curve was created to better understand what real potential exists and what problems with flood or drought hydropower issues as well.

The ranch property owned by DoradoVista,  Inc. has a significant portion of the available head pressure (170 ft out of a total of 350 ft) and water flows sufficient to be considered as a likely site for small hydro development, according to the "Idaho National Labs – INL, Hydro Power Prospector".  The following INL web site link has more on hydropower prospecting: 

Pelton Wheel, Water Turbine RunnerThis is a great renewable Small Hydro energy resource provided by the US Government, take a look at the GIS driven resource maps for an area.  Drive it around and get the feel for the many prospects and limitations for Small Hydro in the future.  The site rates a solid five stars by DoradoVista Inc!

Focus on Hydro System Finance too

The Financial Goal of our Hydro system cash return is to Break Even in < 7 Yrs (BET)
       -- Model does not include finance costs otherwise so, expect typical 10 yr commercial return.
        -- System should return $ ~predictably over 5 yr interval.  Just as Farmers know, rain is 'an act of God.'

The key to any Hydro success is to set up statistically optimized cash flow structure such that the system is economically viable.  We will need to keep a good multi year model of production and a good capital and operating expense budget to match!  Save cash from peak rainfall years to help make up for missing cashflow on low years.

We must m ake sure any Hydroelectric system design includes factors regarding the following:

  • Reliable Weather and Water-flow Hydrology and statistics for a large period of time (monthly avg for many years)
  • Factor in Pipeline, Turbine and Generator efficiency for friction and conversion losses
  • Factor in a reasonable hydro generator return margin to guarantee any financing return rate can be met even in bad years
  • Factor in Penstock costs, check for predicted steel costs and penstock installation issues
  • Factor in grid tie costs including distance to substation
  • Watch for special Hydro equipment installation costs and issues e.g. distance to rail head for heavy machine delivery.
  • Specialty items such as coanda intakes, penstock valves and hydropower controls and hydroelectric monitoring instruments

Don't forget to visit our Gold pages, you can start at:

* You can find more material from ESHA on  SHP at the following resource web site:

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