Farmers with a stream on their property that offers about an 8m head of water, could generate their own electricity. Mike Clayton, a turner machinist and owner of Mesh Gear Manufacturers in Durban, has the other essential component – a compact, sturdy water turbine. “A 200mm pipe feeds the 12m head of water into the water turbine under high pressure,” explains Mike. “nozzle directs the water into the runner, spinning it at 500rpm. An alternator converts the power into electricity, which travels by cable from the turbine site to whatever application you want to use it in.” Mike is getting a minimum of 10kW out of one turbine. “That will power an 8kW alternator at 1 500rpm, sufficient for various applications such as lighting, pumping, electric fences and lighting a home.” ike built and installed his first water turbine to pump water on his farm in Coleford, 25km south of Underberg, 10 years ago. “2m head of water comes off a river and is fed into a 10in pipe. That drives the turbine and pumps the water through a 40mm pipe to a tank with a 50m head of water.” Last year, when the Eskom power crisis loomed large, Mike decided the time was right to revive the project and he currently has 10 turbines in a production line. Word is spreading and his turbines are generating interest from farmers in Underberg and Mpumalanga.
Rocco Bonsma runs a beef herd and rears dairy heifers on his 600ha farm in Underberg. Late last year he placed one of Mike’s turbines on the river coming off his dam and he now uses the power generated to irrigate his pastures. “We are very pleased with the turbine,” says Rocko. “We are still measuring its capability but I think it is the answer for us.” Rocko was previously at the mercy of Eskom’s power outages and load-shedding. “This is a huge problem on the irrigation side as we run perennial pastures and release heifers on them. With the turbine we can pump whenever we want and once we have paid it off, electricity will be free. It doesn’t require diesel.” Rocko is so optimistic about the turbine that he plans to install another one. “We are hoping that by the time we have set it up we can add at least another 40ha to our pastures and run our entire house and workshops off it. The best part is we won’t need Eskom at all.”
Setting up more than one turbine along the same stream is a good idea. A lot of farmers have perennial streams or water coming off a dam on their properties,” explains Mike. “They could place a whole series of turbines along one stream if they needed to generate a lot of power.” Keenly aware of the fact that putting in pipes and buying the water turbine can be an expensive process, Mike is building turbines that last. “The runner and its housing are laser-profiled stainless steel and it’s virtually maintenance free. The only wearing parts are the bearings,” he says. For people who have access to water all year round, the turbine could provide electricity 24 hours a day. But in areas where water is scarce, at certain times of the year, Eskom would sadly have to remain a back-up plan. – Robyn Joubert Contact Auriel Mitchley on (011) 889 0796 or e-mail [email protected].