Whilst modern hydroelectric systems are robust and hardwearing there are a variety of preventative maintenance measures and inspections that need to be carried out over its lifetime if you want to steer clear of any major problems. These can often be carried out by someone with a little specialist knowledge but, as with any other piece of machinery, it always pays to have an expert inspect the installation once in a while.
Checking your Installation
Most people with a run-of-the-river installation will be aware that periods of heavy rainfall can cause a dramatic increase in water levels and changes in the power with which it hits the micro hydro system. It is always a good idea to give the system a check over once this kind of event has occurred and make sure everything is functioning properly, particularly the turbine. But whether there has been an extreme event or not, you should give your system the once over on a regular basis.
- Check the penstock (the channel that feeds water to your turbine) for signs of erosion or cracking.
- Check if the turbine area is clear and remove debris.
- Check for any unusual vibration that could be due to a problem such as unoiled bearings or loose bolts.
- Checking the storage battery, if you are off grid and use one for storing electricity, is always a good idea.
It’s not just the actual machinery and the plant that you need to pay attention to but the surrounding area. For instance, if your system is fed from a weir then you need to keep an eye on whether there is any erosion occurring, sediment is building up, or anything else that is going to change the operation of your plant.
It’s also a good idea to keep a check of the area where the generator and other components are housed to make sure that it remains in good condition and is secure.
Regular Maintenance and Inspections for Hydroelectric Systems
Looked after properly, a hydropower system can expect to have a lifespan of 40 to 50 years and provide a significant return on investment over that time. The key to this is regular maintenance and inspections and so it helps to have an expert check over your system once in a while. Most installers will package together a maintenance regime for you but you can also contact one of the many companies nowadays that offer the service.
Generally, the bigger the installation, the more you need someone with the professional and technical understanding to give it a regular check. For larger, community based hydroelectric installations this could be a set regime every 6 months or so. Regular maintenance may also be part of the warranty procedure for micro hydroelectric systems.
Warranties for Hydroelectric Systems
Hydroelectric systems have a variety of different parts and each will have a separate warranty. So you turbine will probably be more durable than the generator and will attract a longer warranty term. Overall, the warranty for a hydroelectric system may well cover a period of 15 or so years but, with adequate maintenance, you can expect it to last up to 50 years.
The generator may well need replacing at some point as this is the one item that has more in the way of mechanical and electrical parts that can degrade and malfunction over time. It is a good idea to keep a detailed breakdown of the different warranties for your system which the installer should provide at the outset.