Inspired by Sam Redfield’s rural alt.energy work in hydro-electric power, featured here on MAKE, “Fishboy,” working out of the Vancouver Hacker Space, created this micro-hydro plant in a plastic bucket.

The power generator in the system is a Permanent Magnet Alternator (PMA) with a pelton wheel directly attached to the shaft. Water is sent through four jets which strike the wheel causing it to rotate.

The bucket and lid components were initially assembled at the Vancouver Hackspace. The first version of the bucket lid had the water distribution system assembled from 1 inch PVC parts. After on-site tests failed, I found that this system was too inefficient to distribute the high-pressure water needed to spin the pelton wheel. Version 2.0 of the water distribution system was more successful. Version 2.0 consists of a manifold which evenly distributes the water between the four 1 inch pipes.

He’s preliminarily measured it at 56V with the value fully open and processing approximately 1.7 liters per second.

Micro-hydro power bucket

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor for Boing Boing and WINK Books. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.


  • KentD

    What is the power output of this? (Volts is like the pressure, and you can make 1000 volts by rubbing materials together.)

    • Gareth Branwyn

      From the description, it sounds like he didn’t have the tools at his cabin to test current. He says that on the next trip, he’s going to bring a dummy load and a second meter.

    • nefis

      There’s an output chart for the DC-540 on the Windblue website. A voltage output of 56V corresponds to the alternator spinning at 625 RPM producing 10 amps, generating approx 560 Watts of power.

      http://www.windbluepower.com/Permanent_Magnet_Alternator_Wind_Blue_Low_Wind_p/dc-540.htm

      • pfg

        I mean no offence, but i seriously doubt that the way you worked that out was completly sound.
        The site says voltage was measured under no load and current under max load, there is no was anyone can convince me it will spin at nearly the same speed if the load is different.

        • bobwojo

          Some automotive headlights would have been a simple load, and made the test a lot more meaningful.

        • fishboy

          Hi pfg. You are correct – this was a quick-and-dirty measurement taken on an open circuit. I believe that when a load is applied to the PMA that the spinning of the wheel will slow down significantly.

          On my next trip to the cabin I hope to have a better test rig, as well as the charge controller circuit and battery bank. This will give me a much better real-world test of the system.

          Thanks for your feedback!