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Electricity for free

Its a mechanical problem that has troubled scientists since Archimedes and the ancient Greeks, but now an electrician has come up with a new invention that could help save consumers thousands of pounds in energy bills.

Ian Gilmartin, 60, and Bob Cattley, 58, both from Kendal, Cumbria have invented a mini-waterwheel capable of supplying enough electricity to power a house from almost any running water supply.

The contraption is designed to be used in small rivers or streams ( ideal for hundreds of thousands of homes).

It is the first off-the-shelf waterwheel system which can generate a good supply of electricity from a water fall as little as 20cm.Mr Gilmartin, an electrician and inventor, was not prompted to think up his new device by high energy bills ( he does not own a TV and has never lived in a house with electricity.

But he has a stream at the back of his house, the Beck Mickle, and with the help of PhD engineering student, Mr Cattley, now hopes to see the invention in the shops by the end of next year.

Mr Gilmartin first began experimenting three years ago with yoghurt pots and wheelie bins in the stream, before test-running a proto-type. They took the results to the Lake District National Park, and secured a £15,000 grant from their sustainability fund.

The prototype has now been working successfully at St Catherine’s, a National Trust site near Windermere, opening up previously untapped energy.

The waterwheel produces one to two kilowatts of power and generates at least 24 kilowatt hours of sustainable green energy in a day, just under the average household’s daily consumption of around 28 kilowatt hours.

It will cost around £2,000 to fully install ( and will pay for itself inside two years).

The Beck Mickle ‘low head’ micro hydro generator could potentially provide electricity to more than 50,000 British homes and could be used industrially. Mr Gilmartin said: “While we cannot say this provides free electricity, because of the initial cost of buying the machine, it is expected to pay for itself within two years and then greatly reduce the owner’s electricity bills after then.”

Waterwheels of various types have been known since Roman times and hydropower was widely used in the Middle Ages, powering most industry in Europe.

But the energy produced from the flow of water depends on the height, or head, that the water falls.

A ‘high head’ like a traditional water-wheel, is large, expensive and needs civil engineering. But with ‘low heads’ ( under 18 inches, no one had yet invented a method of successfully recovering the energy generated. Researchers have long sought out low cost technology to exploit the vast number of suitable low head hydro sites as a source of renewable energy.

A conventional waterwheel allows the water to escape prematurely as the wheel rotates, but the Beck Mickle Hydro generator contains the water for the full drop of the device, converting around 70% of the energy into electricity.

Mr Gilmartin said: “This idea started off to answer the question, ‘How do you recover energy from very, very low heads of fluid?’ I have come up with an answer and I don’t know why anyone has not thought of it before.”

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36 Responses to “Power a house using a waterwheel”

  1. Gene Webb


  2. Peter

    So. What happened to this? Purchase link?

  3. Clinton

    I’d like more information, Living in Sanya City, Hainan Province, China.
    Clinton Steele Ph.D.

  4. Horace eubanks

    I have a 10″ pipe of water that runs all the time need more info.

  5. Robert k slay

    I think everyone is missing the simple facts here and overlooking a very easy built (self contained/ self perpetual system that could be built at low cost


    need more news concerning power from water thanks for this website

  7. Bob Robinson

    It’s a long time since I last saw Ian.
    Please ring penrith 899622 .

  8. joey

    The name of the company is ES& the link carl posted for all the info.

  9. Doreen

    To Harry Johnston:
    What is the name of the company you purchased your water wheel from?

  10. lee ayres

    What is name of the company? Is there a web site for the company in America?

  11. Fred Blakely

    Hi…can you send me some info on costs and delivery..I live in Ontario Canada and would be very interested in the water wheel as I have a cabin right beside a stream

  12. Julie Fodera

    I want to live off grid and never considered a water wheel! I am very interested in this- do you have the website for the company in Canada?

  13. trnqwl

    Hi Harry,
    I would be very interested in knowing where you purchased your waterwheel. Any comments or observations regarding your experience with this unit would be very much appreciated!

  14. Harry Johnston

    We live off grid full time and recently installed a micro-hydro stream engine purchased from a small manufacturer in Sussex New Brunswick Canada. Depending upon the supply of water to the water wheel(we have a 3″diameter plastic line), and the head pressure- we have 48psi, this machine is capable of producing huge amounts of electricity. From a seasonal stream we can produce up to 50amps(12 voltsystem). More than enough for all our power needs. We could power two houses. Anyone interested in the name of this company can contact us, they ship worldwide. They have been making this waterwheel for over 20 years and there are about 20 on the small remote island we live on.

    • Joanne Massicotte

      I would love their address and phone number for the near future. Thank you.

  15. daltxguy

    As Bill S said, low head micro hydro is nothing new. The lack of details in this article would indicate that this person is looking to cash in on the hype. and you’d better have a LOT of water flowing with 20cm of head to generate 1 to 2 kw!
    If you are interested in what already exists, just search low head micro hydro.

  16. zach

    hey mike, i tried clicking on your name, and nothing worked. i am interested in contacting and purchasing this product. mike, could you please contact me? thanks

  17. Mike

    The trnqwl contact me, I have the answer you seek.

  18. Bill S

    This story seems to never get to market.

    There’s nothing secret about low head hydro power – it powered the US Industrial Revolution and low head turbines made from wood achieved 80% efficiency. The theoretically power available from falling water can be expressed as:

    Pth = ρ q g h
    Pth = power theoretically available (W)
    ρ = density (kg/m3) (~ 1000 kg/m3 for water)
    q = water flow (m3/s)
    g = acceleration of gravity (9.81 m/s2)
    h = falling height, head (m)

    The result, multiplied by the system’s overall efficiency (60% is good in this business, 50% average in micro sites) will predict output power.

    Pico/micro low head systems are not common in the USA (micro hydro itself is uncommon here) but it’s always a function of head X flow X gravity. Low head requires high flow rates and different turbines than high head / high pressure.

  19. Shari Saucier-Wilson

    I am totally in agreement with BeingStill. We own land with a creek that runs through the lower width of our property and I too feel that it is my land, my water and I WILL use it for off grid electricity if I please!!! EPA laws or not.

  20. dan

    I’d love to believe this is real, I’ve looked at the design on another website, but the news about this started in 2006, and it’s still not commercially available. I’m skeptical…

  21. BeingStill

    The EPA serves us, and – frankly – can kiss my arse! The EPA does not OWN anything, and regardless of “the law” (which is supposed to serve the People… NOT the establishment) I’ll do as I darn well please with MY land, my water sources, etc.!!!!

  22. trnqwl

    I have 40 acres, (very remote) and feel I could rely on a fast flowing 20′ to 30′ wide creek that runs straight thru middle of property for all off-grid power needs. As it flows fast and level (no real head or drop) this type waterwheel sounds perfect for me. How can I follow progress and know how to make purchase as soon as possible? Do you have means of contact?

  23. David P. Adamson

    If you live in the U.S., good luck getting permission from the EPA, your state utilities commission, and or your local municipality. It is against the law to disturb any nature withing 60 feet of any natural water way. …And theres no way you’re going to get permission to dig near a stream, even if you own the land.

  24. rustyfingers

    This makes me think of Joseph Newmans methods for creating electricity. I wonder if it works on the same principals by creating more power with less revolutions?
    It sure would be interesting to see some schematics!

  25. John

    I life off-grid in the Thetford Forest near Foulden in Norfolk. I wish I had a stream for a water wheel as I have been relying on solar since the wind turbine fault. If I had a stream to do this with I would have constant power all the time. Great work!

  26. james matthews

    Are there plans/ diagrams for this available ?

  27. Sal Minella

    So…? I have a stream. How does this thing work? How ’bout some details.

  28. Fran fischl

    I want to buy this waterwheel

  29. joe remo

    when can we buy one of these units

  30. Emyr

    How do I get hold of one of these? It would be ideal for me, particularly at this time of year. I live off grid and have a small stream!

  31. roi icalina

    i am looking forward to be seeing off-grid electricity generation mechanism from different part of the globe which we can also implement back here in our place (Philippines). I am very interested on this topic.

  32. John Donnelly

    Nice! When I go off-grid I will find some land with a stream.