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Figured I would start a thread for DIY power generation. This is my passion, and even managed to go massively in debt to get a bachelor's of engineering technology in "Alternative and Renewable Energy Applications"




Currently we are running 60w of solar PV panels to power a 1950s house trailer in the woods where there is no access to grid power. The PV panels charge a matched pair of deep cycle marine batteries, which provide power to 12v DC compact flourescent bulbs, and when required there is an inverter to power additional "standard" 120v AC compact flourescents. The trailer is pretty small so it only takes three bulbs to light it up almost entirely, but we generally only need one or two for a couple of hours per night. This leaves plenty of power for a radio/cd player, as well as charging a laptop and/or cell phone.



There is a stream running through the property though, with quite a bit of elevation drop in some areas, and I want to harness the water to generate electricity 24/7. This will give us much more power than we need (for the time being, at least) and will not be sitting idle when the sun goes down.



Here are some links to "microhydro" stuff to wet your whistle




http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Vn1EtGRRkSo <-- this is a neat setup, but i cannot afford a $330 permanent magnet alternator



http://www.otherpower.com/scotthydro1.html <<--- this is more my style. Contemplating building my own generator as they have done, but perhaps using scavenged hard drive magnets... My budget is pretty low for this project.



http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/gentleman0711.html



http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Hydro/hydro.htm



http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=TmTGnO_E0pY << This video has a good system overview







Is anybody else around here into this kind of stuff? We have some interesting terrain, so in the future I plan to put up some test towers to check out average wind speeds as well. I figure if the power company collects a "service and delivery fee" from me every month, I might as well invest that money into my own power production infrastructure and eliminate the bills altogether.
 

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Figured I would start a thread for DIY power generation. This is my passion, and even managed to go massively in debt to get a bachelor's of engineering technology in "Alternative and Renewable Energy Applications"




Currently we are running 60w of solar PV panels to power a 1950s house trailer in the woods where there is no access to grid power. The PV panels charge a matched pair of deep cycle marine batteries, which provide power to 12v DC compact flourescent bulbs, and when required there is an inverter to power additional "standard" 120v AC compact flourescents. The trailer is pretty small so it only takes three bulbs to light it up almost entirely, but we generally only need one or two for a couple of hours per night. This leaves plenty of power for a radio/cd player, as well as charging a laptop and/or cell phone.



There is a stream running through the property though, with quite a bit of elevation drop in some areas, and I want to harness the water to generate electricity 24/7. This will give us much more power than we need (for the time being, at least) and will not be sitting idle when the sun goes down.



Here are some links to "microhydro" stuff to wet your whistle




http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Vn1EtGRRkSo <-- this is a neat setup, but i cannot afford a $330 permanent magnet alternator



http://www.otherpower.com/scotthydro1.html <<--- this is more my style. Contemplating building my own generator as they have done, but perhaps using scavenged hard drive magnets... My budget is pretty low for this project.



http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/gentleman0711.html



http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Hydro/hydro.htm



http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=TmTGnO_E0pY << This video has a good system overview







Is anybody else around here into this kind of stuff? We have some interesting terrain, so in the future I plan to put up some test towers to check out average wind speeds as well. I figure if the power company collects a "service and delivery fee" from me every month, I might as well invest that money into my own power production infrastructure and eliminate the bills altogether.
I would love to do build a wind powered generator but my fiance's father just got diagnosed with prostate cancer so I've started saving money for our wedding (He has been fighting me tooth over nail about who was going to pay for it) in case he can't afford it. Its awesome to drive across Kansas and see those things for miles and miles!
 

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Sorry to hear about your father in law, Seth. If your wife is into "DIY" stuff as well, there are lots of great ways to save money on a wedding, and then you can build one of these http://www.otherpower.com/magnetrotors.shtml
Oh yea she has been coupon clipping and showing me dresses. She showed me a dress that was $6,000 that she liked. Then she showed me one exactly like it for $500. I think she is a keeper. That is a great link you sent me! Thank you so much!
 

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One of the small town museums in Kansas I visited a long time ago had a display of windmills used around the area. The basic ones were for pumping water, but many were converted using auto alternators. They had banks of deep cycle batteries housed at the base and the power was used in the farm house, the barn, and lots of times to heat the chicken house in the winter.



12 volt kitchen appliances were common, and side by side 12V and 110V lighting systems in the house were common.



Back then, and even some times these days, power lines for whole counties would go down in the wind, or from ice buildup.





 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks guys.



The ultimate goal is to build an addition on the trailer so that we can stop paying rent on the other house, and then live on the property full time while we build our "dream home"



Our dream is not the same as our peers evidently. We are envisioning a completely offgrid but 100% comfortable and "livable" house, a half mile back in the woods from the road. No home owner's associations or vinyl siding, no street lights, no "bad neighborhoods" and no nosy neighbors!



The plan is for the house to be as autonomous as possible. We don't have any kids and really enjoy travelling. It sure would be nice to be able to close the place up while we hit the road for a month, and not have to worry about it in the meantime.



Questions like "what if the power goes out?" "what if we run out of fuel oil for the furnace?" Etc and so on, are what we don't care to spend our time worrying about. "Where should we go next" is a much better problem to have




The house will be built into a south facing hill, both to take advantage of the earth's internal temperature/insulation (summer and winter) and in combination with the right amount of windows in the right places, passive solar heating.



If we keep the square footage where it is now and don't change the design too much, we should be able to keep the place at 65F for a whole 0F winter day, with one short hot burn in the woodstove for just a few hours.



Plus there is more than a hundred acres of hardcore woods to ride my tw in!!



By the way, I might as well use this as shameless advertising space... if you need any alternative energy consulting (small projects preferred), let me know
 

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I have a graduate qualitication in oil and gas engineering. I spent a couple semesters studying with Prof DongKe Zhang. I learnt a lot from him - and I remain convinced we have a long way to go before we abandon petroleum. However, saying that, in my home country of Australia many people are putting up 3 to 6 kVA systems on their roofs and actually generating surplus electricity. I wonder about the life cycle costs but that's a whole different problem - being on the grid though gives them spinning reserve to derive electricity from in high demand and produce to in peak generation periods - much better than battery banks.



I work a lot offshore now and solar panels, inverters and batteries are the bane of the oil companies - they take a lot of space and a lot of tight power budgetting as well as maintenance on a platform designed to last 30 years or so.



http://www.uwa.edu.au/people/dongke.zhang
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Currently in Northern New York - one of the worst places possible for such things!




Tw200sgp: I have a lot of issues with current available technology, government subsidies, payoff periods, carbon credits, the trendiness of "being green" and a whole host of other problems that plague the alternative energy sector.



My goals are almost entirely selfish, rather than noble... Reducing emissions is certainly something that I am conscious of and try to do, but I also do not truly believe that using solar panels accomplishes this.



If you think about the energy required to gather and refine the materials to build a PV panel, as well as the energy to transport the materials to a factory, and finally the energy required to produce the panels and ship them to retailers... well, you get the point I am sure. The same can be said for gas and water turbines, however these put out a whole lot more power during their lifespan than a PV panel does.



That is all just a bunch of jibber-jabber though and totally straying from the point. My knowledge was procured with the idea of being self sufficient. My degree was then procured with the idea of being able to market my knowledge in order to exploit an emerging market that was sure to grow immensely (and has). See, selfish right?




The fact of the matter is though- we have saved a ton of money by running our camp on <$300 worth of PV panels, batteries, etc. The only alternatives (remember, no grid power) were either more expensive, or frankly just a royal pain in the ass. Those options basically boiled down to



A) buying a generator. These are expensive, and require constant refueling. Without modifications they are very loud and obtrusive, and completely ruin the tranquility of our isolated spot in the woods. They also generally make a lot more power than we need.



charging batteries from one of our vehicles upon arrival. This is the pain in the ass part... it would still require the purchase of every bit of equipment except the PV panels, and we wouldn't need the charge controller but would still need some other way to measure the charge. Plus it is a pain the butt
much nicer to show up to fully charged batteries that are ready to go. We can show up after dark and just turn on the lights, just like a modern house! Oh wait... no indoor plumbing



So really to me solar PV is just a means to an end, and does not fit all scenarios. If you need a lot of power from PV, you better have a lotta money. That is why I try to focus on reducing electrical loads, and using other methods for things that normally require electricity like using the sun to heat water or dry clothes. The sun can also be used for passive or active heating of a building as discussed before, and water/wind power can obviously be used to augment electricity production from PV.



We do still need a generator that can be used to run high loads such as my welder, air compressor, circular saw, etc and so on. The hope though is to use an old car or truck motor (of which I have plenty) converted to run on woodgas. If you are not familiar with wood gasification, do yourself a favor and look it up.



Essentially you combust wood in the absence of oxygen, and it produces a gas that can be burned in a regular old internal combustion engine. During WW2 when all oil in Germany was reserved for military use, and eventually much of that had run out, many german vehicles and engines were converted to run on wood or sometimes coal gas.



This post is already too long, typed it all out on a cell phone. Have a good night all
 

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I helped an orphanage in Cambodia go off the grid (well, there wasn't one but we reduced the generator bill). We put in LED lights, fans only (no aircons) and most importantly bought some deep freezers (door on top) with thermostats that let them run at fridge temps - these are incredibly efficient compared to upright fridges. The fridges and washing machine's were the main culprit for loading. We designed a hybrid generator / PV system - we bought a MODERN generator - Oman brand I think - and a reversible inverter that would handle the PV input, the genset input and the batteries. This allowed the genset to run only a few hours at most a day instead of all day and most of all - at it's efficient loading. I found some really good info and excel spreadsheets online about hybrid systems - the idea is to load the engine at 70% (I think) with the batteries and load until the batteries are charged and then shut the genset off automatically - it only comes back on if the PV's aren't keeping up with the load. This was a 5 building complex with about a 20kVA max load so it was quite a project.
 

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Operose, We live in Baja during the winter months and rely solely on PV and wind power. No locally available electricity, and we have had all we can use of gas (or diesel or propane) generators. We began with a small PV panel and a nearly wornout 12V battery, and have expanded until we now provide all our energy needs with six panels and a 400 watt wind generator. You have both the interest and expertise to get your place energy independent and you will have a ball while doing it. Good luck.
 

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I just did some solar high power landscape lighting in my yard (400W of panels on the side of my deck powering a ton of 1w led landscape lights)

Ill take some pics of it some time soon.



Also found a nice little write up on a DIY wind turbine.
 

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Look into Passive Annualized Heat Storage for your self-HVACing dream home. A similar concept off-grid earth sheltered home I built for next to nothing in the 1970s needed heat in the summer when the leaves shaded the greenhouse and venting of excess heat in the winter to prevent overheating. Bimettallic actuators for vents require no power. A 2-inch overflow pipe from the spring house fed a 6-foot diameter wood waterwheel that used V-belts to drive a car alternator that charged a deep cycle battery for lights and RV frig. Frig could also run off propane, as did the range.
 
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