Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hot Shower, Energy Independence

Sometimes I smile to myself while enjoying a hot shower knowing the water and energy is from mother nature, not the city/government.  Nothing feels as good as hot water rinsing away the dirt, making me feel totally refreshed.  Better still, we are off the grid.

Water Tank and Energy Shed with photovoltaic panels on top
Hydro generator producing 12 KW per day

30 foot waterfall on Hanawai River, 3 inch pipe borrowing a bit of water
Last night it rained several inches.  This caused the Hanawai River to rise several feet, which in turn sometimes creates problems for my hydro-electric system.  Leaves get carried into the river and these can sometimes block the screen covering the water intake.  This volume of water also means the water has lots of air bubbles.  This can create air pockets in the pipe and collect in high areas which break the syphon flow.  So I took the steep hike down to our river to do the maintenance (nothing is ever really free).

Battery Bank & Spare Hydro Generator
We generate electricity from a small 48 volt alternator.  I have a 3 inch pipe running the length of our property next to the river which has approximately 75 feet of vertical difference between the intake at the top and the generator at the bottom.  This creates about 35 psi of pressure to turn the turbine generating approximately 12 kilowatts of power per day.  This is approximately equivalent to the average US households use of electricity per day.  The intake is a simple syphon.  When the water exits the alternator it is returned to the river.  No adverse environmental impact.

Inverter 48 volt DC to 110 volt AC
I have an inverter to convert 48 volt DC power into 110 volt AC power.  I also have 8 solar panels to collect power from the sun although we really don't need them with our hydro system.  We also have a small bank of batteries to store energy.  Because the hydro system generates power 24/7, battery storage needs are minimal.

Solar Hot Water Panels
Lastly we get our own water for drinking and all our needs by collecting rain water from our house roof and storing it in a 10,000 gallon tank.  With an average rainfall over 100 inches we never run out of water. I have several filters in place including an ultra-violet light.  The water is pumped into our house by a 48 volt pump (powered by the sun and river) into a pressure tank.  We also have a solar hot water system which is powered by two panels capturing the heat from the sun.  The hot water is stored in a 120 gallon hot water tank or about 3 days of hot water use.

Pressure tank & backup diesel generator

 The cost for all of this was less than the cost of complying with our CC&Rs requiring us to run the power cables for HELCO electricity underground in conduit.  I love the independence and appreciate not getting a power bill.

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