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OT: Waterwheel invention promises cheap electricity

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  • OT: Waterwheel invention promises cheap electricity

    Waterwheel invention promises cheap electricity
    Last updated at 11:20am on 31st December 2006

    Mr Gilmartin with his waterwheel invention

    It's a mechanical problem that's troubled scientists since Archimedes and the ancient Greeks but now an electrician has come up with a new invention that could help save consumers thousands of pounds in energy bills.

    Scotsman Ian Gilmartin, 60, and his friend Bob Cattley, 58, both from Kendal, Cumbria have invented a mini-waterwheel capable of supplying enough electricity to power a house - for free.

    The contraption is designed to be used in small rivers or streams - ideal for potentially thousands of homes across Britain. It is the first off-the-shelf waterwheel system which can generate a good supply of electricity from a water fall as little as 20cm.

    Mr Gilmartin, an electrician and inventor, was not prompted to think up his new device by high energy bills - he does not own a TV and has never lived in a house with electricity.

    But he has a stream at the back of his house, the Beck Mickle, and with the help of Phd engineering student, Mr Cattley, now hopes to see the invention in the shops by the end of next year.

    Mr Gilmartin first began experimenting three years ago with yoghurt pots and wheelie bins in the stream, before test-running a proto-type. They took the results to the Lake District National Park, and secured a £15,000 grant from the organisation's sustainability fund.

    The prototype has now been working successfully at St Catherine's, a National Trust site near Windermere, opening up previously untapped energy. The waterwheel produces one to two kilowatts of power and generates at least 24 kilowatt hours of sustainable green energy in a day, just under the average household's daily consumption of around 28 kilowatt hours.

    It will hope to cost around £2,000 to fully install - and will pay for itself in side two years.

    The Beck Mickle 'low head' micro hydro generator could potentially provide electricity to more than 50,000 British homes and could be used industrially.

    Mr Gilmartin said: "While we cannot say this provides free electricity, because of the initial cost of buying the machine, it is expected to pay for itself within two years and then greatly reduce the owner's electricity bills after then."

    Waterwheels of various types have been known since Roman times and hydropower was widely used in the Middle Ages, powering most industry in Europe.

    But the energy produced from the flow of water depends on the height, or head, that the water falls.

    A 'high head' like a traditional water-wheel, is large, expensive and needs civil engineering. But with 'low heads' - under a 18 inches, no one had yet invented a method of successfully recovering the energy generated.

    Researchers have long sought out low cost technology to exploit the vast number of suitable low head hydro sites as a source of renewable energy.

    A conventional waterwheel allows the water to escape prematurely as the wheel rotates, but the Beck Mickle Hydro generator contains the water for the full drop of the device, converting around 70 per cent of the energy into electricity.

    Mr Gilmartin explained, "This idea started off to answer the question, 'How do you recover energy from very, very low heads of fluid?'

    "With a low head there is not very much flow, no velocity, the fluid has got to have speed, and the only way of doing it is with a water wheel, but they are big and expensive and need lots of civil engineering.

    "I have come up with an answer and I don't know why anyone has not thought of it before."

    Mr Gilmartin added: "You have to have a good reason for not having one. There are enormous possibilities wherever there are water flows."

    What do you think, does this concept have potential??

  • #2
    Sure it has potential, if the water doesn't turn hard as a rock half the year, the fish and wildlife people will give you a permit, the water rights branch will give you a permit and the downstream users of the water don't object. Chances of getting approval here equal slim to none.
    Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


    • #3
      I don't see how one can make much comment - I am certainly interested but there is so little information given in the article (and would you trust a newspaper to get any of it correct? )

      I was recently in the UK, there was a tiny wind-powered generator gaining lots of publicity - but no figures given for its output - "powers a hair drier" I think the newspapers said in dumb-speak. Is that 100 watts? 500 watts? I have no idea.

      Most of the time the media there go on about the utter garbage about turning off your standby power, thus saving huge amounts of power and soothing your conscience.....its hard not to be cynical.


      • #4
        Yep it will work,but he had better not let any Snail Darters get knots on thier heads or else.
        I just need one more tool,just one!


        • #5
          also would like to mention , if thats the machine in the background of the photo, there is a heck of a drop for the water to develop a "head".



          • #6
            Evan has it right - the problem isn't the energy - which in this case seems to come as much from inertia as from head pressure. The problem is getting this idea past the greenies. In Washington State this would be a non-starter. You cannot exploit rivers and streams for any purpose, and in many areas there is a 50' or more clear zone where you cannot do anything to your land where running water runs across it. You certainly cannot divert it, you cannot weed or clear the banks, adjust rocks, build a bridge over, or otherwise screw with anything but an irrigation flow that is also heavily regulated.

            Not to mention the total energy available in any flowing stream can be calculated, and if everyone dipped energy from it the result would be a lake. Mucking with running water in nature has all kinds of interesting problems as anyone who has studied the Mississippi river will know. Any attempt to shorten or lengthen the river (it's grade) has been met with a cantankerous response by the river to put things as they were.

            Taking energy from flowing water slows it which has the same effect as changing it's grade and the effects are there but of course a matter of scale. Over the length of a tributary it can spell disaster.

            Case in point: In India where the Ganges river meets the sea is a classic river delta - a cluster of islands built up over a long period of time by silt and other forces. All very common - New Orleans is another example. Recently one of the delta islands, Lohachara, was washed away by the sea with great loss to the farmers and 10,000 residents of the island. All the news reports are blaming this on global warming, of course, as it is the perfect scapegoat.

            A casual examination shows that in fact the problem began many years ago when several things happened that guaranteed this result:
            - Two dams were built on the Ganges - no more silt making it to the sea
            - The systematic removal of the mangroves to allow farming
            - The systematic pumping of inland underground freshwater to irrigate and to provide water for the over-populated delta island

            The seas in the Bay of Bengal have not risen sufficiently from any cause to create this disaster - the island was sinking as a result of underground water depletion, salt water was replacing it, the mangroves were not holding back the seas, and the silt is trapped behind the dams.

            Move now to Tuvalu Island, the Pacific. It is claimed by the locals that rising seas are washing away the island. Global warming again the culprit. On examination we find that the over-populated island's fresh water supply is being pumped at a rate far greater than it is being replenished and the island is sinking as a consequence. The sea in Tuvalu is not significantly higher now than it was two centuries ago. When the island of Kiribati went under the waves global warming was blamed. Nobody thought to blame the water pumps and defoliation of the island. The same thing is happening in Florida where sinkholes are a problem - ground water depletion is the obvious problem, not global warming.

            Of course global warming is a problem but it is not THE problem for everything that is going on in the world.

            Lordy I rambled.


            • #7
              Simple just build one of these


              BTW the drawing is by my favorite Artist MC Esher he did a bunch of this kind of thing.
              Last edited by Tin Falcon; 01-01-2007, 06:53 PM.
              Ad maiorem dei gloriam - Ad vitam paramus


              • #8
                Easy, now just where did I put my 4th Diminsional TriSquare and transit
                Forty plus years and I still have ten toes, ten fingers and both eyes. I must be doing something right.


                • #9
                  That image makes my head hurt, it is a little harder to sort out than some others I have seen. It is the misplaced vertical supports that create the illusion.
                  Last edited by Jim Caudill; 01-01-2007, 09:39 AM.


                  • #10
                    Neat picture. Whoever said that perception is reality obviously was not looking at this picture!
                    Back to the invention of Mr. Gilmartin. While I do think that It might be possible to do it, I don't think it's going to be possible for him to get it through all the red tape. Some power company will "make him an offer he can't refuse" just so they can buy the idea and then put the technology on the shelf until such time that they are able to adapt it to work with their existing infrastructure. They are not about to let the fruit of someones brain undermine what they have built, and thus render their investments worthless.
                    He would probably be far ahead to just be satisfied with devising a way to beat the system, and use it for his own gain. As it is, he will do well to be able to benefit from his own ingenuity. JMHO.
                    There is no shortage of experts, the trick is knowing which one to listen to!


                    • #11
                      No need for any conspiracy theories re the power companies in this matter. They aren't the least bit concerned about small hydro power. Even absent the difficulty of having such approved by the authorities there are very, very few people in a position to make use of such power. Suitable streams and creeks just aren't that common, even here in BC which has countless thousands of lakes and streams.
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Jim Caudill
                        That image makes my head hurt, it is a little harder to sort out than some others I have seen. It is the misplaced vertical supports that create the illusion.

                        That Pic really does not play any games with me except the illusion -- all i really see is the waterfall and the wheel and the rest is so absurd it really doesnt even register...

                        I wish there was a breakdown of the water wheel wayne posted, is it turbine or what? I could care about all the "reviews" i just want to see a pic.


                        • #13
                          A google search for "beck mickle" turns up a few references to this including a good picture of the actual wheel.


                          • #14
                            Acknowledging the red tape, location factors and all, plus the relatively low power output, some of the low technology and resourcefulness is interesting.

                            Start at post #9 in this thread for another attempt at harnessing some juice from a stream.



                            • #15
                              if you find that picture again, how about posting the link? I couldn't find anything.

                              The inventor is mistaken in one of his claims - there are low head systems around. In France I have seen several working systems on the canals, they fit the turbine near each lock, so it is working on maybe 2 metres head (but lots of volume). I have been to one place (Montech, near Montauban) where there are about 5-6 locks in a row, several of the locks have pretty powerful looking turbines (I would guess hundreds of kw). But the huge locomotive-driven water incline next to the locks is much more interesting!