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Want some help in building a hydro electrical plant in South Africa.

related country: South Africa
related country: South Africa

A question from Bernardus: I’m from a farm in South Africa in Mpumalanga in the Sabie area. I’m very interested in building a Hydro electrical plant on the farm, we have the water & area to maintain the plant, what I lack is expertise & knowledge to build it, funds is not a problem. I have a large village that houses about 300 people and loose standing houses (8) with families on it.

Your help in this matter will be highly appreciated.

Regards Bernardus


Hi Binaya, I sent a note to a friend from Mpumalanga. She may have some tips on who could be of help. We will see.

aidos.nando gravatar imageaidos.nando ( 2015-03-13 13:21:10 )

9 Answers


Check out Dulas engineering. They're an offshoot from the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth. I almost did a training course in micro-hydro with them - was accepted, but funding did not come through in time for me to take up the course.

Also, check out:

Cheers, Gavin


Have you seen they seem to have real data on what's been done in SA and could maybe link you.


You can also get in touch with Practical Action Southern Africa's energy expert on


For local engineering expertise try David Still of Partners in Development in Pietermaritzberg: .


I would seek out Nigel Smith of

Sustainable Control Systems Ltd Unit 9 Wormbridge Court Wormbridge Herefordshire HR2 9DH

Tel: +44 (0)1981 551955 Fax: +44 (0)1981 550196 E-mail: info_at_sustainablecontrol_dot_com Just replace _at_ and _dot_ with the usual elements (I have done this to avoid Nigel getting lots of spam.)

Nigel makes the induction generator controllers and will have a lot of contacts in the industry and around the world I am sure. We used one of Nigel's controllers in DRC in 1993 and despite many lightning strikes leading to damaged transformers and IGC printed circuits board components reuirung replacements, the system is still working even though it produces a measly 1.5kW of power. That little bit of power makes all the difference to the hospital and staff houses, powering low energy lights, charging computers and phones and powering a corterising knife used in the surgery. The system is driven by a head of around 80m using a 7" Pelton wheel made by Gilbert, Gilkes and Gordon Ltd of the UK. The wheel has been replaced once due to being eaten away by the water which has some sand in it but it lasted nearly 20 years before being replaced. The piping was supplied by Pipeline Developments Ltd. We used 120mm SDR 11 HDPE piping welded using the hot plate technique. It's all still there buried underground and encased in concrete in places. The business end consisted of a 6hp squirrel cage induction motor out of a skip next I noticed one evening next to the UMIST labs (they still made me pay for it as the skip was on the way to the scrap merchants), we made the casing out of 1/4" steel plate and had it hot dip galvanised. Three threaded conical tubes were lined up to take the stainless nozzles we made in different sizes because the flow varied during the year and each branch had a 2" brass gate valve fitted. This arrangement allowed for the many unknowns faced by designing in the UK for a project site never seen and on which it was difficult to get meaningful data. The villagers, one of my graduates and I fitted the piping and the rest of the system over a 6 week period in 1993 and I got it working in the early hours of the day of my departure. They had to hold the light aircraft while I threw my stuff into my bags, said and said hurried goodbyes. I had spent the previous day trying to get it to work. Unsuccessfully. I went to bed thinking 'last chance' maybe there is air entrained in the pipe and it will rise up overnight. It did and the system worked a treat! What a close call that was!

One of the bits of kit you will need are load limiters that will really help you make your system sustainable. These are fitted at each property and limit the maximum load available, cutting ... (more)

Neil Noble

Here's some information on the subject from Gray Maguire of Project90x2030 who says...

Check out the attached from earthpower and BWG hydro, it'll tell you most of what you need to know. If you want to build it yourself then earthpower is the way to go, if you want a pro to do it go with Bruno from BWG ( He know's his stuff.

Earth Power Energy Solutions, Kalk Bay 7990, South Africa, Tel: (021) 702 1102 Fax: 9021) 701 2877 E-mail: info[at] Website:


Dear Bernardus,

There are many factors to consider in the design of a hydro power system. The key things to measure first are the flow rate of water you have and the ‘head’ or vertical fall that can be used. These determine both the type of generator you can use and the amount of power that can be generated. A quick calculation of power can be made by multiplying the flow rate in ltres/sec by the head in metres by 6. This will give you a rough indication of potential power in Watts.

There is a wealth of knowledge and handbooks out there. Some of the best resource is at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales -

Kind Regards

John Jacobs IEng MIET


Dear Bernardus (and indeed anyone else interested), It seems as though the previous responses have provided an excellent technical resource for building the plant, I thought I would pitch in on how you could make it potentially pay for itself. We've been operating solar-based microgrids for some time now in East Africa. We've built a device that allows you to track all the aspects of the installation (power being generated, voltage of system, power draw of each user over time etc…) remotely from an online dashboard. It also does all metering, payments and switching through integration with mobile money platforms. Essentially it can work as an energy vending machine. People buy power using their mobile phones, using the same pay-as-you-go method as topping up their airtime. Although it has mainly been used to manage solar microgrids, there is no reason why it could not be used on a hydro-based system such as the one you are describing. I say this in the hope that it might be interesting, conscious of not wanting to sully this forum with commercial plugs. If this does sound interesting please contact me off this forum at



Hi Bernardus,

I represent Turbulent Hydro, we develop hydro turbine for micro hydro projects. Currently we are looking for an opportunity to implement our technology. Our setup can run in small rivers or any streams even with low height difference. Please contact us of further details of the project.

Best regards, Natalia Wibowo +32487139308