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Summary

Credit: Cassie Langstraat

In podcast 296, Paul, Rick, Jason, Steve Heckeroth, and Stuart Davis finish up their discussion of the
solar workshop. They briefly touch upon one more battery: a lead acid battery from a fork lift. This is a much taller battery that has a far longer lifespan than other lead acid batteries. However, it is often quite expensive.

Paul then brings up an idea that he has seen thrown around a lot but never actually implemented. Basically, you would build a pond on high, your solar system would pump water up into the pond, then you would have a micro hydro system to harvest that water, you would have 3 generators down at the end of the pipe and a controller which would activate valves to allow water to the generators depending on demand so the pond would effectively act as a battery made of water. They talk about how, because of recent technology, this might now be a possibility because there could be a way to program a controller to do this sort of thing.

The crew chats a little bit more about micro hyrdro systems and then move on to the biggest part of the workshop, electric vehicles. Paul talks about the four electrical vehicles they have at the laboratory and goes into more detail about the polaris. He tells the story of how the batteries in the polaris were boiling when they first got it. Various people told him different advice in regards to this but everyone in this podcast came to the conclusion that the boiling is only okay once every three months, and only for a controlled duration for about two hours.

Then the guys talk a little bit about what the real purpose of these vehicles are, and that it probably isn’t for daily farm use. Paul teases Steve for thinking that his electric tractors might have a chance of winning tug of war against Tim’s truck. Steve admits that he only claimed that before he actually saw Tim’s truck, and is bowing out of that hypothetical contest.

Paul brings the conversation back to the other problems with the polaris. Not only did the batteries boil constantly but whenever they plugged the polaris in to charge, it would lose all the charge it had. After much contemplation and poking around, they realized that the wiring was set up backwards.

Steve then clarifies what the “low” gear on the polaris actually does. It limits the RPMs on the motor because the highest, best power on the motor is at the lowest RPMs. He further explains that it does depend on which kind of motor it is (DC or AC) but the lower RPM has higher torque and lower speed.

Paul talks of another modification they made to the polaris. There is now a DC to DC charger so that you can take an auxiliary pack and stick it on the back of the polaris and it can run on that instead of the internal power pack. He says he would like to have 6 to 7 auxiliary packs or be able to just access the solar leviathan wherever. The solar leviathan also has a DC to DC charger so the charge can happen in a very short amount of time.

One of the guys does warn that there are dangers in doing this because hydrogen is created when doing this sort of charging. It could explode if you do not take the caps off. Paul brings us back to how it is scary trusting human discipline for anything so this might not be the best idea.

The last big topic they get into is the solar leviathan. It has many similarities to the volts wagon , it is just much larger. It has 3,000 watts of panels, multiple power packs, 48 volt systems, and a far superior inverter. The guys discuss how they built the leviathan a little bit and then discuss its intent. The solar leviathan will eventually be the power base station so they can get more use out of electrical vehicles and get other electrical use wherever they want on their land.

The guys admit that the workshop contained so much more information than what they could relay in these podcasts and they consider doing a dvd set but maybe not yet. Paul likens being off grid to using linux on your computer. You can get by using it, but you are going to have certain people who know what the hell they are doing to guide it and keep it working right.

The guys want the pod people to understand that the solar leviathan will indeed get completely finished, they are just waiting for some parts to come in. They talk a little bit about the kickstarter for DVDs about the solar leviathan but Paul says how he was extremely surprised at how few people were interested in solar and that the kickstarter might not even get funded. Regardless, the guys conclude that there is no way to convey all the information that got shared this week and if you don’t get a dvd then come out to the land and see some of this stuff for yourself.

Relevant Links

Electric Tractors
Off Grid Appliances
Low Heat Tehermal Turbine

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pollinator
Posts: 1467
Location: Vancouver Island
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Cassie Langstraat wrote:

Paul likens being off grid to using linux on your computer. You can get by using it, but you are going to have certain people who know what the hell they are doing to guide it and keep it working right.



An interesting comment. First off, we are a total Linux house hold. My wife, and sons and I all have Linux based computers. Yes I am sysadmin for all of them (6 of them in fact), but quite honestly it would be the same for windows or mac computers, the only difference being, I don't know anything about those OS. As such, all computers that came with something else on them got converted with the first trouble, in some cases they were left dual boot so they could boot either Linux or windows... but the windows partition never got used because it was so slow and frustrating... and I mean for the non-Linux biased people.

Thats the background. Now for the real comment.... Yes I agree there are some good (and bad) similarities between Linux and off grid power (or off grid anything). The good part is openness. Linux is hackable... easily hackable for those who understand programing. In the same way, off grid power is hackable... easily hackable by those who understand the technology. The bad part is that the user has to learn in both cases. My point is that freedom comes with a price. Modern first world people have become straight consumers (on purpose from the manufacturer's POV and perhaps from our government as well) We have become dependent on someone else to make things work for us and being responsible for our own future has largely gone by the way. I would like to point out that for me, linux and off grid as compared to windows and on grid would be like comparing permaculture to grocery shopping. So to my way of thinking, Linux and offgrid power are the permaculture in their own fields.

The same things I like about permaculture can be said for:
tool making
tool using: wood working, welding, sewing, etc.
Linux (open source SW in general actually, Free BSD has no linux but follows many of the same principals)
off grid power
off grid cooling
The RMH
Any kind of gardening
The wofati
Camping in a tent outside of a camp ground... for some people even camping in a campground is a big step of freedom.
Too many more things to list.

The big thing is that none of these things are possible without being willing to learn new things. Vive la Revolution! (with emphasis on Live)
 
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Location: S.E. Michigan - Zone 6a
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Paul talks of another modification they made to the polaris. There is now a DC to DC charger so that you can take an auxiliary pack and stick it on the back of the polaris and it can run on that instead of the internal power pack. He says he would like to have 6 to 7 auxiliary packs or be able to just access the solar leviathan wherever. The solar leviathan also has a DC to DC charger so the charge can happen in a very short amount of time.

One of the guys does warn that there are dangers in doing this because hydrogen is created when doing this sort of charging. It could explode if you do not take the caps off. Paul brings us back to how it is scary trusting human discipline for anything so this might not be the best idea.



Are you really running a DC to DC charge controller? My understanding is that they limit the current transfer and can do 3 stage charging. This should greatly reduce the H2 production.

If you don't have a DC to DC charge controller you should make it so you have to (thus eliminate human error) disconnect the battery pack in the polaris to plug in the external pack If not and you have a large differential in state of charge between the two packs you can get a huge current/energy transfer form one pack to the other, which my understanding is bad for both of them (and produce much H2, the electric version of boom/squish with acid). You could wire it so that when an external battery pack is added it disconnects the internal batteries from the vehicle and starts charging them via a DC to DC charge controller and also would run the vehicle. Then you could hook up the external pack, still drive around a while, remove the external pack and have the internal batteries charged.

Further I suspect that you will not be producing enough power from your panels in the winter. If you have a few extra 48V packs you could take one or more of them to the grid for charging rather than running a generator up on the lab to charge them. Again you would have to be concerned about bank/pack isolation if they had a different level of charge but it might be cool to have a little trailer that held one bank and an inverter so you could take it to the job and not worry about moving the Leviathan when you needed power someplace on the lab for a few hours. Also if you standardize on 48V you could build a lighter/smaller pack out of 4 12V batteries and still use the same charging/inverter equipment but weigh half as much.

Just a few thoughts as I think about ways to provide portable power.
 
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Do you prefer white or black rocket ovens?
https://permies.com/t/90003/prefer-white-black-rocket-ovens
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