Off-grid Power

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.


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.


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