In this article, we’re going to show you how to set up a hydroelectric power station near a water source. Hydroelectric power is a very efficient and almost unending source of power. If you are near a stream or river, then this information will aid you greatly after Z-day. Granted, this is a very simplified form of a power station, and only requires a few items which can easliy be scavenged.
List of required items:
Shovels, picks, post hole diggers, and other assorted digging equipment.
A measuring tape
A chalk line
A drill (Battery or hand powered)
A hand saw
A metal file
A draw knife or hand planer
A wheel barrow
A garden rake, or concrete hoe.
A 5 gallon bucket
Qwik-Dry concrete (depending on the length of your channel, add bags accordingly)
Several sheets of 4′x8′x1/2″ (again, the number you need will depend on the length of your channel.)
Several 1″x1″x? (length doesn’t really matter as long as its 2+ ft)
1 sheet of steel at least 1/8th of an inch thick. Dimensions at least 2′x2′
2 wooden pallets
20 car batteries
Spools of wire(large diameter wire for connecting the batteries, and home wiring to run from the power station to the Base)
A power inverter(12 or 24 volt will do)
A car alternator
A large pulley approximately 4 times the diameter of the one on the alternator
A steel rod the internal diameter of the large pulley(At least 3-5 feet long. Lowes and Tractor Supply has them.)
Either build or loot a small building to go over your alternator “Power Station”
A piece of hog fence panel to keep large debris out of your canal
Step 1: Excavation
Dig out a canal in a straight line or in a curve made from straight sections. Be sure to leave 2 feet of bank between the start of the canal and the water. Same for the end of the canal. Dig the bottom flat with a flat tip shovel, and level the bottom with dirt or gravel. Check it with the level. Also make sure the sides are as close 90 degrees as possible.
Step 2: Forming
To build forms for your canal to pour concrete for the sides use the plywood and 2x4s. Cut the plywood in 4 or 8 foot strips for the depth you dug your canal. Cut the 2x4s six inches to one foot longer than you need them so you can drive them into the floor of your canal. Make a 4 inch gap between the wall of the ditch and your form, then drive it into the ground. You can add Rebar if you want, but its not necessary.
Step 3: Pouring
Follow mixing directions on the bags. You’re going to need a constant pour for your walls, so you’re going to have to mix and pour as fast as you can. You can just use the concrete mix, or you can add gravel to stretch it a little farther. If at all possible, have 2 sets of people mixing and one running the concrete back and forth. Pour to the top of the form, then smooth it down level with the ground. After giving both sides 24 hours to set, remove your forms and mark 4 inches up from the bed of your canal and pour the bottom a 4 foot section at a time, that way you can smooth it out without having to reach down from the bank. In the summer it will only take about 4-5 hours before you can stand on the concrete and pour the next section. If you pour one at each end, and work towards the middle, you can accomplish more pouring and get done faster. When pouring the section closest to the beginning of your canal, be sure to place the hog fencing in the mouth of the canal before you concrete the floor. This will act as a grate that will keep large debris out of your canal. Attach it to the sides of canal with brackets and concrete screws so that it doesn’t get washed away. You can also put in a water gate after the grate so that you can stop the flow of water to the wheel in case of a storm, repairs, ect. When Pouring the section closest to the end of the canal, you can put in a slight rise that tapers up about a quarter way to the top of the far end, this keeps the water way full, but still flowing at a good rate while negating back flow from the creek, river, ect.
Step 4: Building your water wheel
You can go old school and build the whole thing out of wood, or make the whole thing from metal. Here, I’ll describe a method for wooden contruction. It worked for centuries, so it’ll do for us. You’re going to want at least 8 radial arms on your wheel. You don’t have to make one like you see on old timey flour mills or anything. One like a paddle wheel will work. Just take a piece of 4×4 and use a draw knife on the corners until you get a nice octogon shape. Then use your drill and drill a hole into the center of your octagonal piece for the metal dowel rod. Using a metal file, file a flat spot on the part of the rod where you want your water wheel then drill a hole through the rod. Now, drill a hole in the octagonal bit of wood near the center. (On one of the eight planes you created.) Then, line the drill bit up over the hole you drilled into the metal rod and drill all the way through the other side of the octogon. Now, put a flush mount bolt through the wood and rod. (More than one may be required.) Now when the water wheel turns, the rod will too. Now to affix your radial arms. Using your 1″x1″s, affix one piece measuring 2ft long on one end of the octogon in an X pattern, making sure that they line up with corresponding planes on the octogon. Do the same on the opposite side. Now, use your miter box to cut a V shape at an angle (45ish degrees) so that you can affix them on the remaining 4 planes on both sides of the octogon. Now that you have 8 radial arms per side, you can connect them, making a larger octogon that looks something like a Ferris Wheel from the County Fair. Where the buckets would be on the Ferris Wheel is where you’ll put your paddles. Use some Plywood for the paddles. Attach them to the under side of each radial arm so that you’re not drilling into the side of the plywood, its not made to join from the sides and it will split, which will make it weak if not a total clusterfuck.
Step 5: Mounting your Water Wheel
To mount your Water wheel, what you want to do is pretty much build a table, but one that won’t go anywhere when there’s a load applied to the wheel. Cut 4 of your 4x4s down to 5 feet. (Make sure and adjust the height from ground to fit your surroundings, if 4 feet is too high, then lower it so the wheel makes better contact with the water.) Now, make a rectangular table with the 4x4s as the legs and use 2x4s for the table sides, measuring 2 feet wide by 4 feet long. You want the long side parallel to your canal. Dig holes 2 foot deep for each of the legs, and concrete them in the holes. Wait till the concrete has set up, then use another piece of 4×4 as a bearing, on either side of the table by drilling a hole just large enough for the rod. The large pulley will go on the rod between these two bearings. You now need a plug to hold your wheel in position. Cut a 4 inch square of 2×4 and drill a hole in the center so it will fit on the rod. Get your water wheel positioned where you’d like it on its horizontal axis, and file a flat spot where you want to put the square you just cut. Drill though the square and flat spot like you did for the water wheel and put a bolt through this as well. Now you have a lateral motion inhibitor on one side. Do this again for the side of the rod inside the “table” and now the wheel will have no horizontal movement when in use. If you hadn’t done this it’d be all over the place or just run till it fell out, trust me. Now that your water wheel and large pulley are mounted, you want to put a few pieces of 2×4 on the opposite end of the table and mount your alternator. Be sure to align the pulleys so they have less than 1/4″ difference in their verticle orientation or your belt will constantly jump off the pulleys. A long level works well for this alignment. Build a shed around your “Power Station” and run your wires to your battery bank, which should be inside your base on wooden pallets.
Step 6:Finishing Your Canal
Now that you have finished the walls and floor, and built your power station, you’ll want to remove the earth thats keeping the water from flowing through your canal. Remove the far end first, then the beginning. If you built in a water gate, then you can open and close it at your leisure, but do so slowly, so that the rush of water doesn’t damage your water wheel or power station. If you didn’t build a gate, remove the last earthen wall slowly, letting water pour over the top as you remove the rest.
Step 7: Building your Battery Bank
Ok, we said use 20 or so car batteries. Since no one else will be using them, try and use all the same type of car batteries. Scavenge them from Auto parts stores, walmart, ect. Put them on wooden pallets over a concrete floor. A garage is the perfect place, just never ever use an open flame around it, car batteries vent hydrogen gas, which will explode. Now you want to wire them up in PARALLEL, NOT IN A SERIES. This is how you do that. Now that you have all of that accomplished, pat yourself on the back. Take a 5 minute break. We’re not done yet. To make this all work so that you can have power in your home, you have to use a power inverter. Just run wires off of your battery bank to the inverter, and then you can plug in an extension cord, power strips, ect. Just watch the volt meter on the inverter. If it gets below 10 volts, stop using electric until it goes back up. You run the risk of depleting your batteries. You need a good power managment system to run stuff constantly. Make a list of priorities and stick to it, don’t abuse your power grid.
Now you can really celebrate, because you now have electricity! Yay! Now you can have cold beer, cook food without fire, stay warm, stay cool, watch dvds, and all that neat stuff you did before the power grid failed. Now if you can augment your hydroelectric with a touch of solar power, then you can really run power night and day.