Development of pico-hydro turbine for domestic use
M.J.M. Ridzuan*1,a, S.M. Hafis1,b, K. Azduwin2,c, K.M. Firdaus,1,d, Z. Zarina2,e
1Mechanical Engineering Programme, School of Mechatronics Engineering, Universiti Malaysia
Perlis 02600 Pauh Putra,Perlis, Malaysia
Phone: +604-9885246; Fax: +604-9049885167
2School of Bioprocess Engineering, Universiti Malaysia Perlis 02600 Arau, Perlis, Malaysia
*email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com,
Keywords: Pico-hydro Turbine, Hydropower, Alternative energy, Domestic use.
Abstract. As many research and study were conducted worldwide in order to explore the different
alternatives and renewable energy resources, this work come out with the descriptions of the initial
testing conducted on the prototype of pico-hydro generation system for the purpose of investigating
its performance. The kinetic energy hold by water flow in the domestic pipes was obtained to have
potential in generating electricity power for energy storage purposes while conducting routine
activities such as laundry, cook and bathe. The water pressure and water flow inside the pipe from
utility’s main tank that used for those usual activities are used to rotate small scale hydro turbine to
drive a generator for electrical power generation. Results from the test significantly show the
convinced reading in recorded voltage as it is a count to propose the system is feasible for
electrification of energy storage purpose and indicate the prospect for further improvement and
Pico is a term used to describe a small characteristic, particularly in size of mechanism. In term of
hydro power generation, Pico-hydro is a system with a maximum output capacity of five kilowatts
(5 kW). The smaller size hydro generation is the most suitable devices to be used for rural
electrification and it is also a cost-effective method to generate electricity [1,2].
The high cost for surviving in today living style including the high paid for utilities’s bill had drived
people to think about a way on how to save the usage of energy at home. In general, the usage of
energy at home are caused by doing daily activities such as ligthing, ironing, operating the washing
machine, and so much more. As the original purpose of creating the pico-hydro system is to supply
the electricity for rural area, this technology are now spreading widely to be used as alternative way
to generate electricity in form of storage energy from regulating process of water flow in domestic
pipes for modern resident area [2,3].
The prototype of pico-hydro system is intentionally designed so that it can be installed at the
residential water pipeline. Distributed water at residential area has potential as an alternative energy
for electrification but the generated power is very limited . Moreover, the potential power may
vary between areas. This is due to the fact that the pressure of water supply and rate of water flow
are different between residential areas. Thus, both parameters, i.e. pressure of water supply that
representing the head (falling water) and the rate of water flow are essential to be determined at
early stage for potential output power estimation.
On the point of hydropower been considered as one of the oldest known renewable energy in history
and was the first sources that been used to produced electric power, this factors had placed Pico-
hydro turbine as developed technology. Other than been used as electricity producer, Pico-hydro
Applied Mechanics and Materials Vol. 695 (2015) pp 408-412 Submitted: 10.07.2014
© (2015) Trans Tech Publications, Switzerland Revised: 09.09.2014
doi:10.4028/www.scientific.net/AMM.695.408 Accepted: 09.09.2014
All rights reserved. No part of contents of this paper may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the written permission of TTP,
www.ttp.net. (ID: 184.108.40.206-03/11/14,14:40:06)
turbine can also resulted for reduction of CO2 emissions as it can replace fossil fuel and fuel wood
to help exploiting local resources, reduces dependence on imported fossil fuel, and saves forests
from destruction and soil erosion, cutting down the number of house fires and provides power for
recharging portable equipment such as mobile phone [2,3].
Pico-hydro systems are classified as run-of-stream, where the operation process does not required
the used of dams, but rather pipes divert some of the flow, drop this down a gradient, and through
the turbine before being exhausted back to the stream . In fact that, Dams can give negatively
impact into the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions which due to methane emissions
and can also give bad affect to wildlife habitats, fish migration, water flow, water quality, and
conflicts with river-based leisure interests .
2. Performance Testing
The performance testing which covers functional evaluations on the proposed Pico-hydro system
emphasizes on the measurable performance characteristics based on the following tests :
i. Open circuit test.
ii. Maximum power delivered test.
iii. Battery charging ability test.
A. Open Circuit Test
In general, the open circuit test is used to observe the generator performance when no load is
connected to the generator output. The test is conducted at residential area in order to determine
the actual performance when distributed water is used. During the test, the generator output
voltage is measured instantly after we open the water tap.
B. Maximum Power Delivered Test
The objective of this test is to measure the maximum output power that can be generated by the
Pico-hydro system when using the residential consuming water as the prime mover. The method
used is by using a variation of water flow rate. The maximum output power at the highest water
flow rate the system can handle is recorded.
C. Battery Charging Ability Test
This test is carried out to determine the ability of the Pico-hydro system to store energy. Thus, a
6V, 4.5Ah lead-acid rechargeable battery has been tested. The time taken for the battery to reach
maximum storage is recorded.
Applied Mechanics and Materials Vol. 695 409
All the testing is done on a test rig that has a configuration as below:
Fig. 2.1 The test rig configuration
Referred the process scheme in figure 2.1 above, the operation of the system started at water
reservoir where the water source are flowing from this point entering the pump and through the flow
meter, the pressure gauge of water inlet are measured. When the water flow reached the Pico-
Turbine system, the regulation process of water inside the system produced electricity energy that
supplied to the battery as storage point and the reading of voltage was measured by using the
Multimeter. The pressure gauge for water flow leaving the Pico-Turbine system was measured
before it returning back into the water reservoir. The process will repeating as the water flow is
3. Results of Performances
The prototype of Pico-hydro generator managed to record a maximum output voltage of 7V DC in
the testing period as showing in Fig. 3.2. The recorded data is also being plotted into a graph for
easier observation of the water energy potential. From the plotted graph shows in Fig. 3.1, it can be
seen that the Pico-hydro generator achieve its maximum output voltage at the water flow rate of 7
L/min. At the low flow ranges, for example 2 L/min, the system already capable to produce 5.5V
Another point worth to be taken into consideration is the value of current generated by the Pico-
hydro system. Current is an important aspect to determine the ability of the system to charge a
battery. When there is no load, which means when the battery is not connected to the generator, the
current reading is 90 mA, as shown in Fig. 3.3. When the battery is connected, the reading drops to
10 mA. The rest of the current is used to charge the battery. Note that the LED is also turned on
during charging process in Fig. 3.4.
410 Advanced Research in Materials and Engineering Applications
Fig. 3.1 The changed of output voltage over water flow rate
Fig. 3.2 The voltmeter reading during maximum
power delivered test
Fig. 3.4 The ammeter reading during battery charging ability test. Notice the difference in wire
connection and the LED from Fig. 3.3.
Fig.3.3 The Ammeter reading during
maximum power delivered test.
Applied Mechanics and Materials Vol. 695 411
In conclusion, the pressure of the main pipeline water supply that representing the head (falling
water) and the water supply flow rate are needed to be measured during open circuit test prior to
measuring the maximum power delivered. Both parameters are important to be determined at early
stage to verify the actual system performance range.
The performance results of the prototype system show that the system able to produce power up to
approximately 0.63 watt. Thus, this offers the users an alternative source for energy storage. For
example, the system is able to supply small DC loads such as Led Emitting Diode (LED) lights for
emergency lighting during the electricity “blackout”.
The authors wish to thank the Universiti Malaysia Perlis under Short-term Grant (STG) no. 9001-
00362 and Ministry of Higher Education under Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (FRGS) no.
9003-00318 and (RAGS) 9018-00039 for the financial support.
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Pico Power Pack,” Pico Hydro Newsletter, April 2000.
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