Here's how to turn an old culvert into a handy hydropower plant

Don't let your old culvert go to waste!
Christopher McFadden

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Do you have a stream or culver nearby that could be going to waste? Then why not consider putting it to work to generate you some electricity

Follow this guide to find out how.

mini hydroplant complete
Source: Construction General/YouTube

As you can imagine, you'll need some tools and materials before getting started.

Materials and gear needed

Let's get on with the build with all your gear in hand.

Step 1: Build the main dam

The first step is to find a suitable site for your hydroelectrical generator to be sited. In this case, an existing culvert has been chosen to supply a continuous flow of water for the system, but you may have to use something else like a small stream. 

With your site chosen, make some measurements of either the culvert of the stream cross-section to plan your build. Next, mix up your cement/concrete ready to build the main dam structure for the project. 

If you are using a culvert, mark out a template on a plastic sheet of its dimensions, and weld or wire together a steel mesh to cover roughly three-quarters of its area. Place this on the plastic sheet in preparation for receiving the concrete. 

mini hydroelectric plant mold
Source: Construction General/YouTube

Next, build some shuttering around the circumference and top of the semi-circular shape. Add in a pair of plastic pipe extenders for the main sluice pipes of the structure too. These will be fixed into the structure with the concrete. 

Support the shuttering with something heavy like old bricks to hold it into place as the concrete sets. 

Step 2: Build the main paddle/waterwheel

While the main dam section is setting, grab your angled steel. With them in hand, cut out short lengths of the angled steel to form the main paddles for the paddle waterwheels. 

Hammer them flat and give each a slight bend at one end for fixing to the main paddle shaft. 

With that done, grab your steel pipe, and measure out the length required to make the main shaft for the waterwheel. Cut it down to size as needed. 

Next, measure and cut out some end plates for the pipe and weld these into place at either end of the pipe. 

diy mini hydro paddle wheels
Source: Construction General/YouTube

With that done, take the paddles you made earlier, and weld these to the main pipe to form a pair of paddle wheels. 

Next, take a stepper drill bit, drill one hole through each of the endplates for the main ribbed rod axle and then thread it between the holes.

Once in place, weld into place on the main hub of the paddlewheel.

diy mini hydro rod
Source: Construction General/YouTube

With that done, take your old wheel hub and weld that into place to one end of the ribbed rod. Next, add a pair of ball bearings to either end of the rod too. 

Step 3: Make the frame for the hydropower system

With that all done, design and mock-up the supporting frame for the waterwheel. Weld or screw the frame together as needed. 

Next, install your waterwheel, and make a pair of arched or saddle brackets to secure the ball bearing to the frame. 

diy hydropower brackets
Source: Construction General/YouTube

With that done, if desired, grab your spray paints and paint the whole, or part of the structure as needed. Add your rubber timing belt to the wheel hub when the paint has dried.

Next, grab another length of ribbed steel rod, add a small pulled wheel to one end, and then install the rod above the main paddle wheel. Connect the pulley wheel to the larger wheel hub on the paddlewheel using the timing belt. 

With that done, connect the upper ribbed steel rod to your mini dynamo, and secure the dynamo into place on the frame. 

diy hydrogen generator
Source: Construction General/YouTube

With that done, rig up another support for the other end of the upper rod, and secure that into place on the frame too. 

Step 4: Complete the build

Next, grab our dam structure and transport it to the culvert. Install it as needed. Next, add some lengths of plastic piping to the pipe extenders in the dam structure. 

Reduce the bore of the pipes towards the end using more pipe extenders or similar pipe connectors as needed. Depending on the lengths of piping, you'll need to add some supports below the pipes to hold them level. 

diy mini hydrpower install
Source: Construction General/YouTube

With that done, install your paddlewheel and generator assembly downstream from the sluice pipes. Ensure the discharge from the pipes hits the paddles and turns the main shaft. 

With that done, install any other electrical components needed like a DC to AC converter and wire it up to the main dynamo. Next, you can now connect up to any other wiring and electrical devices you want the hydroelectric generator to power. 

In this case, a series of LED lights and a power outlet socket have been added to the main circuitry. 

mini hydropower lights
Source: Construction General/YouTube

With that, your project is now complete. If you enjoyed this build, you might want to consider making another hydropower project

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