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Generating electricity off-grid with used veggie oil

 
pollinator
Posts: 631
Location: North central Ontario
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Mike Haasl wrote:Hello friends, the google searches have once again left me high and dry.  Nothing but crappy articles about something not-quite-related to my search or ads for something similar but clearly not what I want.  So I turn again to the best resource on the planet.  Permies.com

Background: This past summer at the PTJ I was discussing options to ditch the grid power at my place.  I'm aiming to disconnect from the grid fully.  The sun is too low in the sky in winter along with the number of trees on my property to make solar possible.  The miles of trees around me make wind generation dicey.  No running water either.  A wonderful gentleman (Jim Juczac) suggested running a generator on veggie oil or biodiesel for all my power.  I recently found a free source of 30 gallons a week of used fryer oil.  Suddenly this becomes a possibility.  I'm going to seek out a few other sources as back-ups before I spend any money on this.

Plan: So my hope is to get a generator that can run on straight filtered waste veggie oil.  Have it hooked up to a battery bank in the house.  Size the batteries to hold a day's worth of usage.  Have the generator come on at 4am every day and run until the batteries are full.

According to some math, I think I need around 18 KWH of juice per day.  So a generator in the 6-12 KW range should be a good size.  That would use about 1.5 gallons of oil a day.  Now for the questions:

Q #1: I found one generator that is designed to run on veggie oil without any tinkering: Organic Mechanic 12KW.  That would be awesome but it's kinda pricey.  Are there other veggie oil generators out there that I could be considering?  I found another one in Germany but I haven't heard back on if they distribute in the US (Heipro)

Q#2: I've seen that you can make "pseudo-biodiesel" by mixing WVO and diesel (50/50), WVO and gasoline (80/20), WVO and kerosene (70/30) or WVO and pure gum turpentine (80/20).  That seems a lot better than the official way of adding methanol and lye and getting a 10% waste product of glycerin.  Has anyone run one of those mixes in a generator for lengthy periods of time with (or without) success?

Q#3: I could find a cheaper, good, old diesel generator and try to work with it but I'm quite worried about the controls to make it "automatic".  I don't want to be starting and stopping it myself every time.  Is this easier than I'm thinking?  Could I cobble together a nice low rpm generator into a system that will work reliably for me?  Keeping in mind that I'm apparently not great at electrical controls.  Even the word "relay" worries me...

Q#4: Assuming I get this generator and it runs well, is it easy to tell it to come on in the wee hours of the morning every day?

Q#5: The place where I'd put it is a long way from the house (~300') with an empty conduit between the two (yay).  But there is a sub panel near the location (only 20' away) with a 95+ amp supply.  But it's not warm there (gets down to 10F once a year).  So I assume the batteries need to be in the house.  How do I connect the batteries to the generator?  Do I need a big ass feeder wire running from the generator all the way to the house batteries and then onto my personal house grid?  Or can the generator somehow put juice onto the grid out at that subpanel and then the batteries in the house collect it?

Q#6: I assume there would be a charge controller and inverter somewhere in this chain of hardware.  Both of them in the house by the batteries?  Would the charge controller be able to tell the generator to come on at 4am?

Q#7: I was assuming I'd want lithium iron phosphate batteries since they'd be in the basement.  Since I only need a day's worth of juice it might be a small battery pack (yay).  Are those assumptions decent?

Q#8:  If the brains of the operation (charge controller, not me) is in the basement, I'm assuming I'd need to run a control wire out to the generator.  I only have the one conduit so if I need power and controls running between the house and the generator, I assume I'd have to run that control wire separately in a new trench.  Is that right?

Thanks so much for any guidance I can get on this little pipe dream of mine!

hi Mike, lots of great advice so far and I've really liked reading it all. If it has anything to do with diesels and energy generation or cogeneration be it diesel, mixes or veggie oil new or used you really must take a look at the micro cogen site. It's mostly dormant now as the drop in solar panel pricing killed off a lot of that part of the alternative energy world but the back catalogue is awesome. I have gleamed countless tips from it. I used to participate a bit in the woodgas and charcoal gasification pages there.
Good luck and enjoy the rabbit hole!
David
www.microcogen.info
 
steward
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Mike Kenzie wrote:

Mike Haasl wrote:I recently found a free source of 30 gallons a week of used fryer oil.  Suddenly this becomes a possibility.  I'm going to seek out a few other sources as back-ups before I spend any money on this.


30 gallons of week of used fryer oil is a lot of oil. Be sure that you can commit to collecting, transporting, storing, filtering, de-watering that much oil first. This all takes a significant amount of time, energy, and effort. I would recommend starting with small quantities at first, hone your practices, then build up to that amount.

Luckily they just have it sitting out back and when their barrels get full, they call someone to haul it away.  So they said I can take what I want and it will just delay how often they have to call the hauler.

Thanks for the centrifuge tip!  And thanks R!
 
Mike Haasl
steward
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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Thanks David, I'll check out that cogen site!  I did find a micro CHP (Combined Heat and Power) company in Canada that looked perfect.  But they don't ship to the US and they're located as far from me as you can get and still be on a road...  
 
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