Off the Grid

We’re off the grid–meaning we generate our own power chiefly with fossil fuels. This is very expensive. As gas prices in the lower 48 have recently dipped below $2 a gallon, we’re still paying $3.90 a gallon here in Petersburg. Further our only supplier, Petro Marine, topped off every tank when the price of crude was $149/barrel. So this price will get passed on to us for a very long time….

We’ve a diesel 6kw Northern Lights generator in our well house. These are great machines–I’ve got four of them–two on our tug Katahdin and two here on land. Besides producing 110 VAC, it heats the three story insulated structure above preventing freezing of the 1000 gallon tank in winter. The 110VAC electricity is stored in 16 huge storage batteries set up in series/parallel to 48 volts and then inverted back to 110VAC. That’s so the generator runs minimally–usually 3 hours a day which eats up about 1 gallon ($3.90) of diesel. The inverter is real smart–we have a dashboard 100 feet away in the house and can monitor everything from there. Here’s the battery bank:

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I’m building a box around them to vent off the hydrogen gas which is a byproduct of lead/acid battery charging–it’s also very explosive so out it goes. I’ve spent all fall rewiring the well house, installing insulation around all pipes with heat tape, etc. And I built stairs up to the top–the old vertical ladders would have challenged the Ringling Brothers aerialists.

Speaking of aerialists, below is an aerial photo of Petersburg showing our property and muskeg on the left, Petersburg Creek at 11 o’clock (Coho Creek between us and P’burg Creek) and the north entrance to the Wrangell Narrows about 2 o’clock–north is up. To add another energy dimension, we’re thinking micro or pico-hydro electrical generation now:

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Here’s a zoom in:

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Our goal is to capture water from the two horizontal ‘arms’ of forested creeks that merge together 23 vertical feet above our proposed hydro system. Twenty three feet of head pressure is considered low but with high volume flow we can generate power with one of these Kaplan turbines:
Kaplan.jpg
But it’s still 300 feet to transport water through a 6′ pipe which equals 463 gallons per minute to this puppy. To measure the potential flow, I’ve built a weir which is 48″ across and 8″ deep which measures out to 3250 gallons per minute when full–lots of water. Here’s the weir running at nearly capacity of 3200 gallons per minute:

Weir.jpg

I’ve put a gauge 4 feet behind the aperature which can be read from my dining chair–300 feet away–pretty slick! I only need this to fill to about 2″ X 48″ to get the flow to run this Kaplan turbine. There are other systems available if the water runs lower–which it undoubtedly will in winter. Here is a great website with several types of micro-hydro turbines. The stream engine is at the bottom of the page.

To learn about Mercury outboard engines and lemons (that’s Lemons and Mercury Marine, lemon, lemon, mercury…scroll down)

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