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Question for Scott - MH integrated with other systems?  RSS feed

 
Lisa Niermann
Posts: 37
Location: Colorado, ~5700', Zone 5b, ~11" ann. precip
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Hi Scott,
Welcome to Permies! Thank you for taking some time to answer our many questions. I'll admit I know nothing about MH.

I saw on another thread that you had lived remotely with microhydro on an irrigation system. Can you tell us a little about that? What was the biggest challenge? Were the costs of setting it up daunting?
I too have irrigation, that runs from about March through September/October, with about 30' of drop over a 1/4 mile. The irrigation flow slows down a bit during the last 1 or 2 months if it's dry. I am looking at options for integrating MH with solar and possibly wind to get the whole year covered for off-grid power of a home and a woodworking shop.
Does your book address integration of systems at all?

Looking forward to reading your book!
Thank you for your time,
 
Scott L. Davis
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The biggest challenge in operating our water and hydroelectric system in the beginning was maintenance. As the years wore on, the system needed more and more arcane repairs. I learned to carve generator brushes to fit our obsolete generator and fun stuff like that. It was all interesting work with old school technology, but I knew that a system with one moving part was possible.

It was remarkably easy to in our case. We got ambitious and combined this project with delivering winter water to the cabin for the first time since it was built in 1906.

I traded for most of the parts of the new system and still spent thousands of dollars on the system at the machine shop and on the electronic load controller. Our neighbour had invented an ingenious load controller based on a voltage sensitive relay, but when the system moved from hundreds of watts to thousands of watts, better controls were required.

All money super well spent. We saved money by doing things with the "free" electricity that we used to do with propane, like boiling tea water. In the winter, the full output of the system went into space heating and substantially reduced our use of firewood.

The anthology, Serious Microhydro: Water Power Solutions from the Experts has case studies with some similar characteristics to yours. The hydro worked so well that the woman wrote a song celebrating the return of the hydro resource after the summer drought. People are happy with their microhydro systems it seems, no matter what size they are. Smaller output systems might not be as expensive or as difficult as more powerfui ones, and that's probably good.

Every site has so many unique elements that only an anthology can cover the range of possibilities. No one site is typical.

Another important fact when describing an existing system is the size of the pipe. What size is yours? Also, how much water do you have available?

More later,

Scotty




 
Lisa Niermann
Posts: 37
Location: Colorado, ~5700', Zone 5b, ~11" ann. precip
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Thanks for your reply. It usually is all about maintenance, isn't it? I like having something I can fix myself if it breaks. Although I am just beginning to learn about microhydro, I'm sure there is a simple enough system for me to be able to troubleshoot myself.

We are definitely old school here...we just bought the place about 18 months ago, and the irrigation consists of an open ditch that runs along the top side of the property, with "turn-outs" or "marks" running downhill to irrigate the pasture. Our house is at the "bottom" end of the ditch. This was the set-up when we bought the property. Needless to say, changing this is on our list, but we haven't done so yet which is fortunate because we have the option of installing the most efficient pipe for our needs, once we determine what those are!

As far as how much water we get...I recall that it is something like 7.5 gallons/second. And then by the end of August it is slowing down and may be about 3/4 to half that. I've never actually measured this, I think these numbers came from the ditch company that administers the ditch. The water is cut off at the end of September/early October. I am considering the benefits of digging ponds and possibly above-ground cisterns to hold the water on the property as long as possible. Could structures like these improve head pressure?
 
Scott L. Davis
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Pardon any double postings...but to answer your final question first, no, storage tanks and ponds will not improve the pressure situation. Using larger pipes can reduce pressure loss, but really all the pressure you get is from the difference in height between the intake and the turbine, minus pressure losses.

Many of the things you need to know are contained in the Microhydropower Buyer's Guide, which I helped to create. Here's the link:

http://canmetenergy.nrcan.gc.ca/renewables/publications/2427


Secondly, the flow rate should be verified, at least roughly. If you have a few hundred gallons per minute available, then thirty feet of head, with the right turbine, pipe. and battery/inverter subsystem (or not) could easily provide a high standard of living to an off grid home.

If you already have power from a utility, the economics may seem poor.

So anyway, try confirming the flow rate available.

Cheers,

Scotty
 
Lisa Niermann
Posts: 37
Location: Colorado, ~5700', Zone 5b, ~11" ann. precip
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Thank you, Scott. Your time is greatly appreciated!
 
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