Have been thinking about a water wheel even since we purchased this property. It was even a tick on the checklist of things the land needed to support. Water energy is by far the simplest most dependable energy source our area has.
When i started researching water wheels the ones that were most highlighted by books and internet pages where the high speed pelton style wheels. Where you divert water from your stream run it down the hill in 4″ pipes and then run it slowly down to a nozzle which creates high pressure and spins rapidly the enclosed waterwheel to generate electric. So at first I was thinking one of these BUT after a bit of time (probably years) keeping these thoughts in back of head some of the draw backs seem to come to the for front.
Keeping water under pressure and not leaking seems to be a constant maintenance issues. Pipes will leak …possibly settle..have to bury them under 4′ (frost line) of dirt. The nozzle itself wears out and needs to be replaced. B/c of the reduction of pipe size will trap sediment and eventually clog. This is more of an issue with an open stream where as ours comes out from a spring however it would still happen.
Another thing that kept coming to my mind was that I was diverting all this water from feeding land and the animals. It just seemed like to generate electric did not have enough merit alone.
Cost: The pipe and complexity of a closed system like this is high. I could dig it but I still needed the pelton wheel and pipes for 170′ of run that is not cheap (relative to my monies). Another issue was b/c of the way our electric pole lies in relation to where the electric generation would happen. If I collected at the bottom of the hill electric lines to get it back (300′ ish) would be very high.
The final was I decided the i wanted get mechanical work done with out even using electric. Effective with out batteries and without the efficiency losses of converting to electric/battery/inverter/tool.
The long winded conclusion .. low tech wins
Well i could go on about plans to build one which were way in the future basically b/c you need to buy axles and bearings (300-400) .plus all the time and energy and material wood wise to build a true wheel of significant height to do some real work. So I (very) periodically would check various sites such as ebay and craigslist. The other day i found it. It didn’t look like much..rusty bent up..so I had a had a chance! I watch with no bids happening and some people watching. I bid and got it for a very descent price of 100 dollars! A 9′ steel 12″ wide old skool waterwheel located in vermont. So 100 bucks…another 100 for gas..another 60 volentarily paid to have him and his wife load it with a bucket loader and two days to load and unload. It will be a bit before we get it installed but now at least i know how to build site to fit it. I was very excited and still am. It needs so work pushing a few things true again but the metal was much more solid then the pictures led me to believe so that is good. Come to find out when his grandfather purchased the land it was powering a wood mill and most of these did back in the day … ( and could again). I hope to use it for everything (maybe hook it up to pto shaft for an easy adapter to get to many attachments?) and when its not being used for that it will run a electric generator to lessen our electric bill.