Here's how to build your own miniature hydroelectric dam

This miniature hydroelectric dam actually works.
Christopher McFadden

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If you have some spare time on your hands, why not consider making your own little civil engineering project? How about, for example, a miniature hydroelectric dam

Follow this guide to find out how. 

diy mini dam and house complete
Source: Interesting Engineering

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

Materials and gear needed

With all your gear in hand, let's get on with the build.

Step 1: Break ground and build the dam

Like any project of this nature, the first step is to prepare the ground for the dam and reservoir. Dig out a trench for the location of the dam, and, if needed, excavate a large pool behind where the dam will be to eventually become the dam's reservoir. 

With that done, further, excavate the bottom and sides of the trench where the dam will be for the foundations of the dam. Immediately "downstream" from the dam excavate a series of steps down from the dam. 

diy dam and house dam
Source: Interesting Engineering

With that done, take your old bricks and begin to build up the main dam structure using cement. Mix the cement as needed. Once you get to around three courses high, mark out the positions for the four sluice points that will eventually power the hydro-generator. 

Leave gaps for the pipes and cement them into place, and then continue to build up the dam's structure as needed. Once the main dam's structure is raised, you can then skim the entire structure in cement to hide the brickwork. 

Cement around the base of the dam too to make some shallow platforms. With that done, take some course rubble or pebbles and fill the lowermost step of the trench's bed.

diy dam and house rockery
Source: Interesting Engineering

Cement them into place as needed to make a sort of rockery-like structure to line the riser of the step. 

The next step is to then mark out and cement into place the mounting posts/jambs for the dam's main sluice gate. In this case, two lengths of wood have been used with vertical channels in the center of one side of the posts for the gate to slide within. 

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With that done, excavate another small channel around the rock wall you built earlier to act as an overflow channel. Next, cement the walls and bed of the channel as needed. 

diy dam and house overflow channel
Source: Interesting Engineering

Step 2: Make the hydro-generator

While the cement is drying, we can now make the hydropower generator. Take another length of plastic piping and cap both ends.

Then, cut out and bend a series of paddle blades, and mount them into place on the plastic pipe. 

diy dam and house paddle
Source: Interesting Engineering

Insert a metal rod through the center of the paddle too to act as an axle. With that done, attack your pair of motors to either end of the main axle of the paddle. Also install any AC/DC converters, etc, needed. 

Next, take a large metal sheet and a threaded metal rod, and weld them together to make the main sluice gate for the dam. Ensure the metal sheet is the same width as the distance between the gate jambs on the dam. Once complete, install the gate at the dam.

diy dam and house sluice gate
Source: Interesting Engineering

With that done, install a lintel above the jambs, and install a reversible actuator to the sluice gate's threaded rod so that it can be remotely lifted and lowered on demand. 

Step 3: Complete the project

Next, take your hydro-generator paddlewheel and install it just downstream from the dam. Once installed, test the paddlewheel by hand - it should spin relatively freely. Adjust as needed if not. 

With that done, extend the main sluice pipes from the dam towards the paddlewheel as needed. 

diy dam and house sluice pipes
Source: Interesting Engineering

With that done, make a series of mini pylons and run wiring from the power generators at the paddle wheel towards where your little house will be built. 

With that done, excavate the ground for the location of the house. Lay a cement foundation for the house and then install the house as needed. You can also build your own little house using bricks, etc, as needed. 

Extend the pylons, if needed, to other parts of the dam that may need power - like the actuator, for example. 

diy dam and house pylons
Source: Interesting Engineering

If not already done, wire up everything as needed and install things like lights to the dam structure and house. 

With everything ready, you can now go ahead and flood the reservoir. Ensure the sluice gate is closed when you do this, obviously. Once done, your dam is now ready to put to work.

Just open the sluice gate and watch your little project come alive before your eyes!

If you enjoyed this little dam-related project, you might enjoy making another

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