Build Your Own Hydroelectric-Powered Hydroponics System
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If you are looking for an interesting project to while away some time, then why not consider making your own little dam, hydroelectric generator, and hydroponics system? No, these are not three different projects, but all in one amazing build.
Follow this guide to find out how.
As you can imagine, you'll need some tools and materials before you get started.
Materials and gear needed
- Assorted small-bore plastic piping
- Applicator gun and silicone sealant (clear)
- Steel wire
- Cement mix
- Water pump
- Fish (optional)
Step 1: Prepare the ground
The first step is to prepare the ground to make the hydroelectric generator portion of the build. Dig a trench, if no suitable ground can be found, and excavate a small portion for where the mini-hydro dam will be built.
Next, take your steel wire and build up the basic shape of the dam.
With that done, build a mold around the steel frame, add a cylindrical shape to form a sluice gate at the base, mix up your concrete and fill the mold to create the concrete dam main structure.
Next, make a series of steel frame stilts for the main fish tank and hydroponics structure.
Dig foundations, and set them into the ground using concrete. Next, run a length of pipe from the footprint area between the stilts, frame the base around the stilts, and fill it with concrete to a small hard standing.
Next, excavate a runoff channel from one side of the dam to the other. This will be used to drain the water from the reservoir to turn a mini-turbine and generate some power. Depending on which side the turbine will be sited, ensure the channel has a general downhill gradient from the reservoir side.
Line the base and walls of the channel with concrete as needed.
Next, take an old water cooler bottle, and cut it in half. Add a small length of pipe to its neck, turn it upside down, and place it below the lowest end of the drainage channel from the dam. This will form a well that will generate a vortex to turn the dynamo later on.
Weight the piece down by lining its bottom with concrete.
Once all the concrete has fully cured, remove all molds to expose the bare concrete underneath. With the dam, build a sluice gate to close the hole at the base of the dam as needed and concrete it into place to the main dam.
If you want to, you can add some decorative features to the top of the dam, like fencing, to make it look like a real miniature model.
With that done, cut out a border channel around the hard standing, and enclose the steel frame stilts to create tubular frames. Fill with concrete as needed and leave to cure.
Step 2: Make the hydroponics tank
Next, take some old uPVC piping and elbows. Cut and fix the pieces together to make the main assembly for the hydroponics system.
The design doesn't really matter, but make sure it is roughly the same overall size as the area of the hardstanding and that the piping forms a continuous, length. Once happy, cap off the ends.
Next, mark out the centerline to the top of the pipe lengths and mark out equal points along the full length of the tube. Core holes at these points to be used as planting points.
With that done, remove the framing from the stilts to the hardstanding. Next, cut some small lengths of tubular steel and adhere them to the stilts to form flanges to hold panes of glass between the stilts.
Once ready, add the panes of glass as needed, and seal around the edges using silicone.
With that done, build a frame for the top of the tank, and place it on top of the concrete stilts. This will support the main hydroponics tubing we created earlier.
Step 3: Make the hydroelectric dynamo assembly
Next, make or use an existing rotary blade and attach it to your new mini-dynamo. Fix the assembly to a wooden frame and suspend it above the vortex well at the base of the drainage channel of the dam.
With that done, connect some wires to the dynamo, and run the wires towards the hydroponics tank assembly. You can, if wanted, run the wires along some mini-pylons.
Next, take your water pump, and connect it up to the wires from the pylons. Then connect some rubber tubing to the pump in preparation for installing it into the main tank.
Next, fill the tank with water.
Once done, take the pump and suspend it in the water column, ensuring that the electrical wiring is not in contact with the water. Fix into place.
If you are going to add fish to the tank, acclimatize them to the water temperature, and then release them into the tank, as required.
With that done, take your hydroponics piping and place it on top of the tank. Add small cones of plastic, or small plastic bottle tops to each planter hole and some plants into the system.
Make sure you also add some rubber tubing from the pump to the hydroponics tubing to supply water to the plants.
With that done, you can now flood the dam's reservoir. Now all you need to do is let the water drain from the reservoir so that it can run down the channel and start generating some juice.
The rest will take care of itself!
If you enjoyed this unique project, you might enjoy some other water-based builds. How about, for example making your own mini-canal and water bridge?