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Feasibility, Design, And Construction Of A Small Hydroelectric Power Generation Station As A Student Design Project

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.265.1 - 4.265.7

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Paper Authors

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James N. Peterson

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Herbert Hess

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2633

Feasibility, Design and Construction of a Small Hydroelectric Power Generation Station as a Student Design Project

James N. Peterson Herbert L. Hess Dept of Electrical Engineering University of Idaho Moscow, ID 83844-1023

Abstract An undergraduate capstone engineering design project now provides hydroelectric power to a remote wilderness location. Students investigated the feasibility of designing, building, and installing a 4kW hydroelectric system to satisfy the need for electric power to support the research and teaching functions of Taylor Ranch, a university facility far from the utility grid. After showing such a system to be feasible, they proceeded to design and build it. Technical issues and stringent environmental regulations are addressed. The students documented their design and developed instructions for installation and operation. The system was installed and currently provides electric power for Taylor Ranch. The first year of operation is briefly described and photographs of the equipment are presented.

Introduction Taylor Ranch is a University of Idaho College of Forestry, Wildlife, and Range Sciences (CFWRS) field research and teaching facility. It is in the Frank Church Wilderness of Central Idaho, 400km southeast of the main campus. The only access to the site is by small plane or by a 60km-long foot trail. The University plans to increase the amount of research performed at the site, but an insufficient amount of electric power on site and the difficulty of transporting energy to the site has restricted those plans. Operating even a small fraction of the proposed research instruments and portable computers far exceeds the 200 watts of solar power available on site. The CFWRS commissioned a student design team from Electrical Engineering to investigate, design, build, and test a small hydroelectric generating system. This paper reports how an Electrical Engineering senior capstone student design group completed this project. First, the three-person group assessed the feasibility of the project, showing that it was both possible and within the capabilities of the students. Second, they designed the system, addressing the necessary technical questions and cost issues and observing important environmental constraints. Third, they assembled the generating system and tested it thoroughly, using a hydrology laboratory on campus. Fourth, they documented the design and created an operations guide to be used during installation on site and during normal operation. Finally, they included a datalogging capability to help the customer plan energy use effectively.

Problem Statement The CFWRS needs more electrical energy for a planned expanded use of the Taylor Ranch research and teaching facility. The terrain, vegetation, and cost prevent a cost-effective expansion of the solar capability to this level. Environmental considerations unique to the

Peterson, J. N., & Hess, H. (1999, June), Feasibility, Design, And Construction Of A Small Hydroelectric Power Generation Station As A Student Design Project Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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