Off-grid Power

Black Swan Event Final(?) Report

Hmmm, two posts sans images in one week.

I’m not sure where exactly I left this tale of my formerly dysfunctional hybrid power system for the barn, but following the replacement of the solar controller guts by the manufacturer after they found ants had shorted out the main circuit board, the reconditioned unit was returned to me.  As we were about to leave town for several days I hurriedly installed it to give it a test drive.

It would not even turn on.  I stewed about that for several days.

On our return after traveling I reached out to the manufacturer’s support tekkies and related the situation, with resolute firmness and precise language.  After a brief silence from them they sent me a shipping label and I sent the unit to them.  Again.

Two weeks later it arrived back with the cryptic note that a disconnected fitting had been connected.  So much for the assertion that the unit had been previously tested, don’t you think?

Again we were on the cusp of leaving town for a few days, but at dusk I installed the newly re-repaired unit.  At least this time it turned on!  There was great joy in Mudville.  That it would not perform any controller function was not especially disconcerting since the evening was fast approaching and the unit normally puts itself to sleep for the night once the photon levels get lower than net operating power.

Assuming that the system would wake up with the morning sunshine I left everything status quo and left town.

Big mistake, but then you know what assuming does.

On our return three days later I discovered that not only was the solar system not turned on and functioning well, the entire system had shut down because the batteries had been drained to the point where, well, the system turns itself off in order to protect the batteries from harm.  Now, this is not a cluster of AA batteries.  These are four monster huge batteries, each weighing about 150 pounds.  Something was amiss.

Side note – when the troubles first began I tested the circuit from the solar panels to the control input terminals and noted the voltage.  It was fine (~100 volts at solar noon on a clear day).  In the follow up testing I was finding voltage variations not unusual for solar systems given that the voltage output varies with the intensity of the sunlight.   Just keep that in mind for future reference.

I contacted the tech weasels again, and spoke to them with increased fervor.  I was given a series of diagnostic exercises which I executed while I insisted the tekkie remained on the line, waiting for me to walk to the system, make the test and return from the power house fifty yards away.  Zilch, zero, nada.  The unit would not perform its functions even though it powered itself up.  The input voltage numbers were a bit low (~60), but certainly enough to jolt the system to action.  But it was not responding no matter what the tekkie told me to try.

“Would you like to return it to us for an further evaluation?” I was asked.

“What I want is for you to send me a unit that actually works,” I replied.

After a few minutes on hold I was told that a new unit was being sent to replace the old one.  It arrived a week later, smack dab in the middle of the ripple molding soiree (we had been using the hydro power and gas generator for that).  Anxiously I installed the unit at high noon on a brilliant sunny day, checking and double checking my wiring connections.  I threw the switches in anticipation of, something.

The unit turned on but refused to perform its function.

To say I was disappointed is to gloss over my mindset.  I took a couple hours to gather my thoughts, called the engineer who had helped design and install the system, dismantled the breaker box and re-took the circuit readings.  But something weird was happening with the readings.  They varied wildly and continued to drop regardless of the sun shine.  40 volts.  32 volts.  26 volts.  50 volts.  20 volts.  48 volts.  24 volts.  39 volts. 22 volts.

Second side note – the buried cable from the solar panel array to the power house was a type specifically certified for direct burial, no conduit required.

Third side note — when digging the trench for the cable with a rented trencher, the trencher broke in less than a minute due to the rocky soil.

With my friend Brint’s help we took some cable and bypassed the buried cable to connect the solar array bus on the side of the cabin directly to the power controller.

It read ~90-100 volts.

Something, somehow, the circuit had been breached, and through trial and error we determined that it was somewhere in the 75-foot buried section, not in the open cable that was suspended underneath the bridge over the creek.  We grafted in the new cable to replace the buried cable, this time enclosing all of it entirely in conduit sealed from the fuse bus to the power house.  This will be buried as time and weather permit.  The new circuit worked perfectly and at solar noon the next day the panels were cranking out over 1300 watts, pretty astounding given that it was September and the theoretical capacity rating for the panel array is 1410 watts.

So now I have a fully functioning doubly redundant power system for the barn; hydro turbine, solar panels, and gas generator.  As a friend once quipped, “The problem with being your own power company is that you are your own power company.”  Every part of it  must be maintained and attended to, but through it all my appreciation for the aggregate utility grid is immense.  Although this has been a supremely frustrating episode I find that my understanding of every part of my system has been enhanced immeasurably.

Last side note — in retrospective contemplations we have arrived at the un-provable conclusion that somewhere in the original underground cable a sharp rock had encountered the cable and through essentially micro-seismic vibrations had eventually breached the sheath of that cable.  Not enough to cut the circuit entirely, but enough to ground it, the amount of the grounding discharge probably dependent on temperature and soil moisture.  As I said that is un-provable but does explain a lot; varying voltage, draining the battery bank, failure to wake up, etc.

Black Swan Update – Solar

As we last left our adventure the solar system control module had been declared to have some as-yet undefinable hardware failure and the unit was returned to the manufacturer for repair.  They diagnosed the problem as ants getting inside the unit and shorting out the main circuit board.  I authorized replacement of the damaged component and two weeks later the unit arrived back here.  I was about to leave for a couple weeks worth of travel but quickly reinstalled the unit just to see the system working again.

It did not.

the original installation in 2011

I double checked and confirmed I had wired in the system exactly as it had been done originally and even had the detailed photo to work from.  I spent many, many hours corresponding with the EE who designed the systems and the different EE who helped me install it.  I spent many hours on hold with the tech line and was eventually told with metaphysical certitude that the system could not have been working uneventfully for seven years because the original wiring scheme could not, would not, and did not work according to their engineers.  I sent them the installation photos and asked them to explain how the system had been working fine for all these years if this wiring schematic was as wrong as they said.  I was told that it had never been working given the wiring diagram and photos they saw.  Apparently I have been the direct recipient of a Divine miracle.

When I asked them again to explain my harvesting electrons with this system for seven years they basically hung up on me.

Then I was traveling.  On my return I made the wiring changes that the manufacturer said were necessary for the unit to function.

It still did not work.

After more hours of painstaking troubleshooting on the charge controller wiring circuits, checking everything from the solar panels through the in-line fuses, the underground cable, the system master controls all the way to the buried copper grounding rod with a meter several times to make sure all the circuits were functioning as required, the unit would not power up.  Again I corresponded and spoke at length with the EE who installed this unit and who directed my efforts (he gave me many very specific tasks to check the current between point A and point B, etc.) and in the end we were mystified.

Once again I called the manufacturer’s tech line, and after very little conversation with me but much discussion at their end they decided that my unit had not been repaired properly.  I was told it was probably something simple like forgetting to plug in the ribbon to the display module.  This makes no sense to me unless the fan is also hooked up to the same display module ribbon as NOTHING happened whenever I diverted power to the unit.  Before this episode, even when the unit would not “wake up,” whenever I threw the breaker for the unit there would be a brief burst of fan activity in the load dump function, but this time, nothing.  I remained bewildered as I had been assured the reconditioned unit had undergone two hours of testing, but how could they test it for two hours in this condition?

Whatever the case they sent me a new shipping label and I returned it to them.  Now I wait again.

Ugh.

Black Swan Update – 3 is 2…

With all the disruption of two robust independent electricity producing systems going belly-up at the same time I decided to add another producer into the mix, is essence to modify the “two is one and one is none” rubric for logistical planners into “three is two, two is one, and one is none.”  In the absence of the hydro and solar electron hamsters I relied on my gas powered generators and a bunch of extension cords.

I decided to contact the local electrician to see if he could wire the generator into the service panel of the barn, and he suggested instead wiring it into the power system at the bottom of the hill, alongside the electrons provided by the hydro and solar units.  I got a quote, smacked my forehead and said, “Of course!”, and authorized the work.  Plus, since there was already a buried cable from the powerhouse to the cabin, could he perhaps also wire that into the system?  Sure, he sez.

The day came when he and his son, also an electrician, arrived to do the work.  The first step was to clear the work area, which translates into “ripping off the raggedy shelter over the electronics closet.”  I’d been wanting to do this anyhow in order to build a more proper enclosure for all these components so this was the time.

In no time flat they were abuzz with work, installing a new sub-service panel to provide for vastly improved current distribution.

After a bit of time they separated so one was completing the sub-service box to serve as a new router for the electricity and the other was making the modifications to the service panel inside the cabin, alowing it to be powered by the same auxiliary system.

By lunchtime they were finished and I test drove the system in all its iterations available at the time: inverter/battery bank power to the house or barn, gas generator power to the house or barn.

Brilliant!

I spent a couple days making more proper housings for the system electronics and the generator and this chapter was complete.

Black Swan Update – Hydro

This is a rare blog without pictures as there is literally nothing to show.  It’s almost like Claude Rains telling you to move along because there is nothing to see.  But it is not without exciting information (to me, at least).

The return of the hydro turbine core last week was a time of great celebration.  I am delighted that I decided to return that unit to the manufacturer for the replacement of the rotor bearings; I did not want to be learning-on-the-job by trying something I had not really done before – replacing the bearings on an expensive, high-stress high-precision delicately balanced machine.  I know that come a zombie apocalypse I will have to do it myself or find someone locally who can, so I purchase two extra pairs of the sealed bearings necessary for the task.  Given existing performance projections that gives me another 25-30 years of functionality to the unit.

Reassembling the turbine unit took almost no time, 10-15 minutes or so.  Reinstalling it into the system took about the same amount of time.  Tracking down the location of the breached water line from unrelated storm damage that had occurred since I dismantled the turbine took the longest.  A tree branch had fallen and cracked the penstock (the 2″ PVC pipe from the water capture to the turbine) disrupting the water flow to the turbine, and once the damage was found the repair took only a few minutes.  I keep a good inventory of repair parts on hand since my water line is above ground, snaking through the forest for almost 1200 feet.  I would love to have the water line buried but with our climate, topography and geology it would require digging a three-foot-deep trench a quarter mile in rocky sub-soil.  Until I inherit a new family tree with gobs of money I will make do with the status quo.

Once the system was all together and running I knew instantly that something was dramatically different.  For starters, the turbine unit was so quiet I turned it over just to make sure it was running!  For the previous nine years ever since the system was installed, when the turbine was operating under full load it produced a whine that was distracting for quite a long distance.  Since it was that way from Day One I had no idea it was not supposed to be so.  But now?  Eerily quiet, just barely audible even at the stillness of dusk.  Although I know what to listen for I still have to strain a bit from the front porch to hear it working.

A second observation was that the output of the unit had increased a fair bit.  I have not yet installed the new digital metering unit for that part of the system, but I can tell the difference in the integral monitor which is nothing more than a blinking light indicating the input current to the charge controller.  All I can say is that it was blinking about twice as fast as I had come to expect for that particular water flow.

I wrote back to the fellow who replaced the bearings with these observations, and asked him if he noticed anything during his work (he succeeded the previous owner of the company since I purchased my unit a decade ago).  He confirmed that he noticed one of the bearings was not seated properly  and he took special care in aligning everything correctly.   It appears that the misalignment caused both a whine in the turbine in operation and also some substantial drag on the turbine rotor shaft.  Hence the “new” turbine is both quieter and more efficient in operation.

Who knows?  Maybe the properly aligned bearings will last 20 years instead of 8-10.

Needless to say I am thrilled with this outcome, and await the developments in the solar panel controller malfunction situation.

Black Swan Events, or 2 is 1, 1 is None

Among the few public observers to whom I pay attention, Nassim Nicholas Taleb has a place at the table if for no other reason than his monumentally insightful book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.  Now, change gears to the old insight from the military logistics and supply realm, “Two is one, and one is none,” an exhortation on the value of redundancy for important operating systems and supplies.  Well, that particular old black swan bit me in the nether regions recently as I found that I’d better start with a bigger number for electricity supply.

Since becoming my own Power Company for The Barn there have always been hiccups; a connection or section of water line breaks, storm debris clogs the hydro system intake or turbine nozzle, even a nearby lightning ground blowing the fuses on the solar array.  In these cases the interruption of one or the other power source is not an activity-stopping hurdle, although it can be a bit of a nuisance and interruption to address.

 

In essence my system is a hybrid of the microhydrolectric turbine generating power 24/7 through much of the year, along with the array of six 235-watt solar panels cranking out juice whenever it is daylight and they are not buried under snow.  When you are your own public utility, maintenance is never far from the “To Do” list.

My two electron sources are tied together in a complex control system designed and installed by Rich at Nooutage.com and my friend BillR, a retired electrical engineer with a robotics specialty.  For the past half dozen years or so it has been humming along, providing all of what I need in the barn for general usage.  Even in the dead of winter, when I have the hydro system mothballed during the coldest weather, the solar panels keep the batteries charged and I can operate pretty much normally if I am the least bit attentive.  If I know I need to use a lot of electricity with a machine or a heating coil (processing beeswax in cookers, for example) I know I need to wait for a nice sunny day.

When I have a particular need for ultra high wattage consumption, like my smelting furnace of kiln, I have to fire up the smaller (3500w) of my two Coleman Suburu generators for that isolated need.

Flash forward to three weeks ago as we were spending a day in the studio recording another session for the Gragg Chair video.  I had checked the system the night before as I do routinely, and it was working fine.  Batteries were topped off, solar panels pounding out watts, hydro puttering along.  (On a normal day each of the production components produce somewhere in the neighborhood of 5kwH, higher on a sunny summer day).  Just as I was coming to the end of a session of steam bending some chair parts the room went dark.  Quickly I hustled down the hill — I do not run any longer since breaking my hip three years ago — and saw that the system had shut itself down for no apparent reason.  It booted back up manually, but still the work for the recording session was lost.

I was leaving town the next morning for a week so I put off conducting the investigation of the hiccup until I got back.

what it should look like

what it did look like

On returning I was able to confirm that the solar panels were contributing zero to the system performance.  It.  Jjust.  Went.  To.  Sleep.  The hydro turbine was still working as it should so the overall system function was adequate, but several days of chasing down the solar inactivity proved fruitless, despite numerous emails and phone calls with BillR, who assigned me several detailed troubleshooting tasks, and literally hours on hold with the tekkies at the solar control module manufacturer.

In the end the tekkies told me there was some sort of hardware failure and I needed to disconnect the solar control unit and send it to them for their ministrations.  So I did.

As all of this was unfolding, the hydro turbine suddenly (literally overnight) developed the growling rumble of worn out bearings.  I took it off-line as soon as I noticed this, dealing with two $15 bearings is one thing but letting them run to destruction might have damaged the $2k turbine and that was not high on my list of risks to take.  After speaking to the turbine manufacturer I decided to remove the turbine core and ship it back to him for new bearings.  Replacing the bearings myself was not really an option as I do not possess some of the specialized tools required for the job, although I will have to address that shortcoming in the future.

Quick as a bunny I was without any power system input to the barn and things ground to a halt, including cancelling/rescheduling the Boullework Marquetry workshop that was slated for this weekend.

For now all I can do is wait on the turbine manufacturer to return the turbine core with then new bearings and hear back from the solar control module manufacturer for a report on that unit, and contact the local electrician to come and wire in my gas generator to the system.

I clearly need for “2 is 1” to become “3 is 2,” or maybe even “4 is 3.”

Stay tuned.

In a true Black Swan event both my redundant power sources failed at the same time.  Maybe I should have called Nassim Taleb first.

A New Design for a Debris Catcher on the Hydroelectric Pipeline Intake

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With the recent reconfiguration of the pipeline, called a “penstock,” for the hydroelectric turbine I began to give some thought to dealing with the problem of floating debris, and ever present problem in an intake system.  Since this reconfiguration the intake was protected only by a piece of 1/4″ hardware cloth, which clogged every few days with the autumn leaf fall, and the large trash grill I built to shroud the area.

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The previous configuration allowed me to utilize a capturing basin (basically just a polypropylene tub) with a top protected by a Coanda screen I made myself.  The water was collected in the tub and the debris washed over the Coanda screen.  It worked just fine, and resulted in the need for clean-off only once or twice a year.

The new location of the capturing point being simply the end of the pipeline submerged into the stream was not amenable to a capturing tub with a Coanda.  So, an entirely new and different approach was needed.  After some noodling I settled on a device I made from two PVC fittings and some pieces of PVC pipe I had already ripped into slats for some reason long since forgotten.

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By affixing the slats to the outside of the joint fitting and the PVC pipe cap I derived an apparatus that functions essentially as a piece of perforated pipe.  But it has two fairly important differences from something like a piece of drain pipe.  First the openings are vary narrow slits, about 1/16″ wide, preventing anything from entering into the system that might clog the water jets down at the turbine.  Second, the orientation of the slits long-wise, in other words parallel to the flow of the water, should provide a self-flushing effect for any debris sucked to the surface of the cylinder.

I’ll know soon enough whether the new arrangement works long-term.  On Thursday we installed it, and the system is humming along just fine.  I will check it again tomorrow to see the situation.  The heaviest leaf-fall will be in less than a week, and although the large grill over the area should handle most of the debris it will not catch it all.

Stay tuned.

Turbine Whine

Yesterday was a gorgeous cool spring day, and I was comfortable enough with the progress in preparing for the Studley exhibit that I took 90 minutes to to make some repairs to the hydro power waterline and get it up and running after a fashion.  We are not expecting any more hard freezes here, although there is the expectation for some snow flurries tonight and probably a couple more weeks of frost concerns for the garden, so the time was auspicious for the reactivation of the system that had been down since it froze solid in mid-November.

Once I get recovered from the exhibit I will tie it all back together (the top 300 feet of pipe is not yet attached and the intake now is simply laying in a trough at the bottom of the stream, with a head of about 100 feet) to maximize the power output, although I don’t really even need the power right now since I am not doing much in the way of electricity intensive work.  But next month I will be building the prototypes for the workbench build in September, and that will require some wattage.

For now, I have the system running and the soft whine of the turbine is just barely audible above the vigorous flow of water running by.

Power System Upgrade Complete

This week was a time of delightful camaraderie and productivity around the homestead as the firewood pile grew immensely, thanks to the ministrations of my  Bible-study friend BobK and his mondo chainsaw (back in the ‘burbs my Stihl was the Beast of the East, but out here it is just a toy.)  With Bob’s help we felled a number of locust trees on the perimeter of the front yard, and removed the sections of the raggedy old walnut overhanging the power system.

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Following that came the arrival of my dear friends Bill Robillard and Dave Reeves for a few days of fellowship and power system upgrade as the new bank of solar panels was installed.   Immediately on arrival Dave and I spent an hour at the wood splitter processing the two truckloads of firewood Bob and I had compiled.  But as soon as Bill arrived the next morning the power work began in earnest.  The current bank is almost perfectly oriented for summer power, but the new bank will be much more amenable for winter power production as it is inclined several degrees.  if that is not adequate I will raise that angle to be more efficient with the low winter sun.

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However, even prior to their coming I had to dig out and inventory all the parts and supplies I had purchased for this project last year.  Fortunately I was able to put my hands on everything on the invoice.

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Installing the framework to hold the panels to roof was fairly straightforward measuring, drilling, caulking, and bolting.  And of course, it was the hottest, sunniest day of the summer.  Handling the panels and the tools was at times unpleasant due to their heat, but we got it done shortly after lunch.

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We then draped the older bank of panels and shut the entire system down so there would be no risk of shock to Bill as he integrated the two sets of solar panels and upgraded the electronics connections in the power closet.  His career as an electro/mechanical engineer has certainly been a tremendous resource for me and all his friends.

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Combining this improvement with the new gargantuan 192-pound batteries I installed last spring should bring the system up to snuff.  Perhaps over the winter I will get the second hydroturbine built downstream about 100 feet from the current one, gaining perhaps another 30% electricity from the hydro function.

When I first became interested in off-grid living more than four decades ago, efficient solar and microhydro electricity were pipe dreams, and I remember an article titled something like “Will Solar Panels Every Break the $10/Watt Barrier?”  My panels are now six or seven year old technology, and they were in effect about 70 cents/watt, and the microhydro thurbine about a dollar a watt at maximum output.  Newer ones are even better, of course.  I can only imagine what the inventive American spirit will accomplish in the future out of necessity as the current knuckleheaded political establishment ramps up its obstruction to efficient industrial-scale energy.  Come 2015 and 2016 as the War on Coal begins shutting down 3/4th’s of the nation’s electricity output…  I decry the duplicity of political figures, but wouldn’t you know the one time a national politician keeps his promise, it is to fulfill a vow to send the energy costs skyrocketing.

On Friday bill and Dave and I even had a bit of spare time to 1) solve the world’s problem, which we did with insightful alacrity, and 2) allow me to demonstrate to them my technique for sharpening edge tools.  They seemed to appreciate it and went home with another skill set in their quiver.

I’ll know how much of an improvement this was to the system when the sun comes out later in the week.  Until then I will just have to wait and anticipate.

Thanks guys, your accounts in the Bank of Don are full to the brim.

The 2011 Upgrade to the Off-grid Power System at The Barn on White Run

Somehow this blog post got lost in the shuffle, so it is a few weeks after the fact.

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On the day of convening the week-long gathering of several dozen members of the Professional Refinishers Group in August 2011, the months-long drought took its toll.  The creek above the dam dried up for the first time in memory.  Ironically the local hydrology left me clueless at the bottom of the mountain; because I have several springs between the hydro turbine and the dam, the water flow coming down the creek seemed unchanged.

I had been anticipating this problem as the water flow, and hence the power output, and been steadily declining through the year of 2011.  To mitigate this problem I ordered three solar panels from my friend Rich at NoOutage.com.  The day before the Group convening I took delivery of a bank of solar panels, and the attendant electronic hardware to control them and integrate them into my system.  Unfortunately I did not have time to install them before the throng descended.  That was exceedingly unfortunate.

There was barely enough electricity for the event to proceed, fortunately we did not use much power as it was mostly low-tech demonstrations and lots of tale-swapping and tip-sharing.  For those times when power was needed – a PowerPoint presentation, and some formulation requiring heated materials, for example, I just fired up a little generator.  The event unfolded all right, but it was embarrassing, to say the least.

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During that week some of the participants volunteered to stay afterwards and help me install the new solar panels and hardware, and I remain eternally thankful to SteveB, JeromeB, and BillR for pitching in to help.

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The new hardware consisted of three 235-watt solar panels, their roof mounting hardware, and the charge controller (the small black box on the right side of the power house) that would allow them to feed into the existing system.  SteveB and JeromeB jumped up onto the roof for that portion of the project and proved themselves to be skillful practitioners of the problem solving arts.  BillR is an electrical engineer, so he and I worked on the hooking up of the new panels to the old system.  Once again, BillR’s knowledge and problem solving skills saved the day, and by the morning of the second day he had everything humming along.

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The output of the solar panels was nothing short of astounding.   At noon on a sunny August day they were each producing almost 290 watts of power!  Bewildered I called Rich, who told me that the ratings for solar panels had to be estimated for the output at the halfway-point of the panel’s effective life.  In other words, since these are thirty-year panels, the manufacturer expects them to produce 235 watts under direct full sun in fifteen years after their installation.

In the following picture, the solar component of the system is providing 79.2 volts of power at 7.7 amps, for a total input to the batteries of 609 watts.

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Notwithstanding our location in the mountains, where the weather can change frequently (I have witnessed five rainstorm and bright sunshine cycles in a single day), these panels have been a boon to me.  They pound out power during daylight, even when it is overcast.  Not 290, or even 235 watts, but a couple of kilowatt hours each day even when it is raining.  On a sunny day like today, they probably produce five or six kilowatt hours.

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In addition, the natural cycle of the weather has provided us with a wet and cool summer, so the water is flowing more freely this September than any of the previous 13.  Still, I felt the need to upgrade our system further, and am embarking on that journey now.

 

Up next – The Second Major System Upgrade

Building the Energy Infrastructure for Off-Grid Woodworking at The Barn on White Run (Part 2)

With much anticipation I waited for the weekend in September 2009 when Rich came to install all the guts of the system and I could then connect the water line to it.

The only real requirement for the location of everything is that 1) the turbine had to be at the lowest practical spot on the property, and 2) the high powered (and expen$ive) electronics had to be protected from the weather.  I decided to locate all of it alongside a garden shed next to the creek.

Rich came with his family and did his magic.  Truth be told I did not have all of my prep work done but amazing things were accomplished that weekend.

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First, Rich attached all the electronic gizmos to the side of the shed, building the complexity of components piece by piece.  As he was doing that I was installing the housing on which the turbine would set.

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Since the “shroud” was a five gallon bucket, all I really had to do was dig out a pocket for it to sit in and cut a hole for the water to escape and rejoin the creek.  (This procedure of extracting water from a creek on your property and returning it unchanged to the creek while still on your property is known as “non-consumptive use” and is, I believe, unregulated in all states.  Check with your local officials to confirm this.)

Once Rich was done with the installation of the electronic hardware,  including hooking up the turbine, the giant battery bank and connecting the 6/3 cable running up to the barn I built the cover for it, simply hanging a closet on the side of the shed.  That structure still houses the electronics to this day.

I got done with the fussy plumbing fittings at the bottom and hooked up the water line to the turbine.

4 amps

The water flow was very low, which is normal for the end of summer here, but still it was producing 4 amps at 48 volts, for just under 200 watts continuous, or about 4 to 5 kilowatt-hours per 24 hours.  Not gobs of power, but you would be surprised what could be done with that much electricity.

I could hardly sleep that night.  Several times in the night I went outside to sit on the front porch and simply listen to the soft whine of the turbine.

lit barn

Within the fortnight following, the service box in the barn was installed and the wiring began.  In those evenings i would saunter out onto the front porch, just to watch the lights in the barn gleaming in the night.  Over the years the wiring network has expanded to the point where it now encompasses all four floors of the barn, and runs pretty much whatever I want to run.  I cannot use unlimited electricity around the clock in perpetuity, but if you came to spend time with me working in the shop and did not know we were off-grid, you would not notice anything unusual.

 

Up next – The First Major System Upgrade in 2011