What is Rainwater Power?
Imagine the average house or apartment, which is most always equipped with a rain gutter for water runoff. Now, consider turning the rainwater that runs into that gutter into electricity. Assume that when it is raining, water is collected in the gutter that surrounds a building’s roof. Now, instead of funnelling that rainwater out to the street, or into a creek; or some other body of water, consider funnelling that water into a tank that has a changeable filter. Inside this tank will be a motor that is moved by the water running through it. To ensure maximum flow for energy production, the pipes that the water is running through will be positioned at the most optimum angle. Also, imagine that the pre-installed filter can clean the water so as to provide quality drinking water for the entire home.
The Importance of Harnessing the Power of Rainwater
It is never too late when it comes to harvesting rainwater, be it spring, fall, summer, or winter. This is especially the case during the wet season in any given area. When the heavy rains come, harnessing the power of rainwater can create significant power savings. Some people worry about the cost of installation and maintenance on the home systems that they install; however, this worry is unfounded because cleaning most rainwater collection units is a breeze. Many people do not truly realize how significant their power savings will be until a heavy bout of rain comes. It is then that they are convinced that they can afford the total cost. Even a single home unit can save the average family hundreds of dollars a year. Just ask the many city officials around the world, especially those in countries where rain comes year round. Many of these people are imploring their citizens to hang the expense of installation, with some even offering lucrative tax breaks, because of the potential that rainwater can provide for power savings on a much grander scale. More home based rain water power generators can reduce the number of power plants that a nation needs to build. This can drastically reduce the damage done to the environment.
It is best for people to install their rain water power generators just before the beginning of their region’s traditional wet season, but residents must be prepared throughout the year because rainfall patterns have a tendency to be unpredictable at times. Experts from Rain Centers around the world have said that nearly ninety percent of their residents can carry out maintenance on their power generators on their own, as it takes only a few hours to clean the structures and can be done, with relative ease, during dry spells. Another important factor in this process is that the water that is collected by these power generators can be processed into drinkable water, through the pre-installed water filters, after the power generation process has been completed. This would go a long way in helping to solve the problem that many nations have with water shortages. People can begin to harvest and process their own drinking water.
How Does a Rainwater Power Generator Work?
Students from the University of Mexico have constructed an extremely effective home based rain water power generation system. They call their device the Pluvia. The water passes through a sensitive filter, which is specifically designed to clean rain that falls during the first two weeks of the wet season since it’s higher in acidity, soil, and contaminants. Then it is stored in a tank. The water is then flowed past a small turbine, and with the help of a pump, enough water pressure is exerted to drive a microturbine, which then generates electricity. When the microturbine turns, a rechargeable battery is loaded from which the home rigged with the system can draw electrical power. The cylindrical power generator that they use is only about ten inches high and two inches wide, which means the device is not a space hog. After passing through the turbine, the water proceeds through a charcoal filter to remove smells, flavors, colors, and any other remaining contaminants, which helps to make the water that just generated electricity drinkable.
How Much Power Can Rainwater Generate?
Scientists from CEA/Leti-Minatec, a research and development institute in Grenoble, France, specializing in microelectronics, have recently developed a system that recovers the vibration energy from a piezoelectric structure impacted by a falling raindrop. The system works with raindrops ranging in diameter from one to five mm, and simulations show that it’s possible to recover up to twelve milliwatts of electricity from one of the larger ‘downpour’ drops. Each raindrop has an impact energy that is highly dependent on the size of the drop; from a small drizzle drop that has two microjoules on impact, to a downpour size drop that carries one millijoule of impact energy. The team identified that a piezoelectric material might be able to capture that energy. Piezoelectric materials generate an electrical potential when acted on by an outside physical force, like the aforementioned raindrop.
Now, put this into practical terms on a local scale. In the average small college town, this may produce a total of 1.5 kWh of electricity. Imagine what it would be like in the rainiest town on earth, Lloro. Colombia. It would get close to generating 50 kWh of electricity. Generators vary, of course, but now, expand this globally, and further, consider the potential for water usage. Given the appropriate conditions, there are regions around the world that could receive a large percentage of their electric power just from local rainfall. In some areas, entire towns could become electrically self-sufficient. Their self-sufficiency could also easily extend to the provision of clean water supplies, again, a major plus in areas where the local demand for clean water is outpacing ready supplies.