Hydro Power

Design and manufacture of highly-efficient electricity generating waterwheels and the development of innovative, new tidal power technology.


High efficiency, flat pack, overshot waterwheels, generating electricity from flows between 100 to 500 litres per second and heads 2 to 6 metres.

Generate electricity 24/7, efficiently and predictably from the watercourse at your premises with our innovative design of an ancient technology.

Smith Engineering waterwheels are built to a high specification following research and development in bucket design and efficiency. The novel design achieves approximately 75% water-to-wire efficiency meaning that payback periods of approximately 7 years can be returned from current feed-in-tariff payments.

To calculate total available power at 100% efficiency is:

Fall (in metres) x Flow (litres per second) x Gravity 9.81
= Power (Watts). e.g. 4.1 x 200 x 9.81 = 8,044 Watts

For 75% efficiency the total available power is:
8,044 Watts x 75% = 6033 watts (6kW)

During construction, the waterwheel components can be lifted in place without the need for heavy lifting machinery, reducing installation time and health and safety risks. This also allows assembly in areas with limited access e.g. rural areas with narrow roads. Annual bearing lubrication is the only regular maintenance requirement and the modular design ensures components are easily replaced if required.

Dependent on their location, the total installation cost of Smith Engineering waterwheels is similar to micro turbines.

Key features:

  • Supplied as flat pack kit
  • Simple design - use of bolts instead of welding
  • Easy assembly - no requirement for special tools
  • Rapid assembly - minimum number of components used (approximately 2 weeks for whole system)
  • Cost effective materials - constructed of pre-galvanised laser cut sheet
  • Durable - greater than 25 years lifetime

Key benefits:

  • High water-to-wire efficiency - approximately 75%
  • Payback periods of approximately 7 years
  • Easy maintenance - only annual greasing required
  • Modular design ensures easy component replacement
  • Elegant design - attraction for visitors
  • Bespoke - each wheel built to customer requirements

Smith Engineering waterwheels are designed and manufactured at our factory in Maryport in Cumbria, England. We offer a turnkey service if required and would be happy to discuss your requirements.

 6kW electricity generating waterwheel installed at The Langdale Hotel and Spa in the English Lake District.

6kW electricity generating waterwheel installed at The Langdale Hotel and Spa in the English Lake District.

Case Study -
The Langdale Hotel and Spa, English Lake District

Design, manufacture and installation of 6kW electricity generating waterwheel, producing 144kWh of power per day from a continuous flow of 200 litres per second, with a potential to produce 30MWh per year at 70% utilisation.

Facts and figures:

Location: Great Langdale, Cumbria, England

Commissioned: November 2014

Output: 6 kW

Flow rate: 200 l/s

Wheel diameter: 4.1 m

Wheel width: 1 m

Gearbox: Brevini epicyclic 177:1 ratio

Generator: Brook Crompton three-phase, 415V induction motor, power rating of 11kW

Customer & civils: Langdale Leisure Ltd

Connection: Border Hydro Ltd

Trials: Dr Paddy Quinlan

The 4.1m diameter waterwheel is positioned in an existing water supply in one of the old wheel pits of the former gunpowder works, next to The Langdale Estate’s original turbine house which generated electricity for the estate in the 19th century. 

The spokes, rims and buckets were all fabricated from 3mm pre-galvanised sheet finished with polyester powder coating. These lightweight components were easily and rapidly assembled using stainless steel nuts and bolts without the need for welding or any special tools on site. Only the wheel hub required welding and this was undertaken at our factory.

Delivery to site as a flat pack kit enabled it to be installed without the need for a large crane which would have been unable to travel down the narrow road to the site. This unique feature allows our overshot wheels to be installed in remote locations where there is restricted access.

Tests undertaken with Dr Paddy Quinlan of the University of Cumbria show that high mechanical efficiencies can be achieved from our overshot wheels. A water-to-wire efficiency of 65% was expected but the tests showed it is over 75%. 

Payback at this rate should be approximately 7 years.

The waterwheel was funded through the University of Cumbria’s Renewable Energy Test and Education Centre (RETEC) with funding from Britain’s Energy Coast in partnership with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

  Reg Tiffin (l), Jonathan Smith (c) and David Lightfoot (r) with waterwheel installed at The Langdale Hotel and Spa.  

Reg Tiffin (l), Jonathan Smith (c) and David Lightfoot (r) with waterwheel installed at The Langdale Hotel and Spa.  


Watch the assembly of the waterwheel at Langdale in 60 seconds!


New Tidal Stream Power Generator

Design and development of highly-efficient, low cost, direct drive, floating turbine concept – for generating electrical power from estuaries, rivers and inshore tidal streams.

Tidal generators have been expensive and difficult to build but this device is being developed to be half the cost of other systems. Its design features should make tidal power more viable.

Its high efficiency comes from the augmenter cone which our tests have shown causes the rotor to turn 50% more quickly (free running). A full size unit will produce 125kW dependent on location.

The story so far...

Watch the video for a brief overview of the device's development.

From hand drawn sketches, we produced CAD drawings and made 3D printed rotors and ducts which we tested in a purpose-built, low speed flume. Results of these tests were extraordinary - a 50% increase in free running rotor speed using the augmenter cone was achieved.

A 1:6 scale demonstrator was manufactured, fitted to a catamaran then towed by boat in tests on a nearby lake. We believe that further tests will prove that the invention is a step change in tidal power generation.

Key features:

Efficient – Ducted rotor design with augmenter cone gives very high efficiency

Output – 1 MW from an 8 unit array.

Cost effective – Low cost construction, permanent magnet generator removes requirement for gearbox.

Automatic alignment with tidal stream – Vane-servo aligns turbine with flow direction.

Easily deployed – Using permanently anchored catamaran platform, enabling raising and lowering for in-situ maintenance.

Reduced cable length – Inshore operation removes high costs associated with long transmission cables.

Reduced capital costs – Approximately half those of other systems.

Reduced O&M costs – Simple construction with low number of components.

UK Patent pending.