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so just how alternative is your energy system?

January 30, 2011

Our micro-hydro system starts 800 feet from the house like this:


Awesome entrance, eh?  The water bursts out of a hill above the farm into this pool:


It then turns into this:


Here’s a side view.  Please take note of the two black tubes in the top of the shot.


The tubes channel water into this barrel.  The screen on top of it filters

out debris.  The tubes from the bottom of it run along a seasonal creek

bed.  The tube beside the barrel supplies our domestic water.

The barrel is also fed by this spring:

Jude, her son Nathan and I lugged the tubes up the hill.  Before we could,

they had to soften in the summer sun to straighten out.

We kept the ends capped to keep out rodents that might have mistaken

the tubes for an amusement park.  Numerous trees and limbs have fallen

across the tubes (in foreground).  None have done damage.

On the other end of the system, the tubes go into this Turgo turbine.  I’ve

used an internationally recognized symbol to show its size.


The water spins the turbine, generating DC energy that goes into this battery bank.


The DC power is then converted to AC power for house use by the inverter, being installed here by Ian.

A charge controller on top of the inverter distributes the juice around

evenly to prevent damage.  We later added a heater to burn off excess

energy so the batteries won’t overcharge.  In 2008 we added six 80-watt

solar panels to the system.  Solar and micro-hydro dovetail well.  When

we have to shut down the pipes from mid-July to mid-September due to

low water flow, we still have plenty of sunshine.  When we don’t have

enough of either, our diesel generator kicks on automatically.


Here are the solar panels at less than peak efficiency:


We have about $50,000 invested in our system.  It would cost us

$40,000 or so to hook up to the bulk electricity now available in

our community.  Given the two options, I’m glad we went off the

grid.  The main drawback is that we’re responsible for any repair

and maintenance.  The main advantage is that said responsibility

always reminds us that energy is best not taken for granted.


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