Energy for Innerlodge

Innerlodge will embody an advanced and innovative energy concepts.  From simple, raw, diesel generator operation in the early days; to an integrated, low environmental impact, passive and active solar harvesting system spanning the gamut of possibilities from simple solar PV, wind, hydro, and on through H2 storage and fuel cells.

Initial primary power will be provided by a non-typical motor/generator set.  This permanent, fixed power plant has been designed with several goals in mind.  It is NOT in league with the typical home "back-up" generator widely available today.  What passes for the typical home (back-up) generator can be basically defined like this:

  1. An air-cooled, manual start unit that does frequency (60 cycle) control by motor speed feedback;
  2. Gasoline fueled;
  3. Generates single-phase 110VAC;
  4. Generally outputs 6kw or less;
  5. Units are intended for intermittent, back-up use; with operating periods and service intervals rated in hours.  Service periods are frequent and parts, if obtainable, are expensive.

In order to serve the energy needs of the lodge, the initial power plant most meet these minimum objectives:

  1. Water cooled, for longevity and noise suppression;
  2. Diesel fueled, for safety and cost effectiveness;
  3. DC as the primary utility output.  Power will be generated by a 3-phase, extended service industrial motor, shaft-driven, and controlled by a motor monitor.  The monitor will provide auto-start, auto-engage, and can shut the system down should any of a multitude of programmable error conditions arise.  The 220VAC, 3-phase output will be rectified and impedance matched to the load, which will consist of a bank of 48V lead-acid storage cells.  For "normal" 110VAC usage, the output of the batteries will be passed through several redundant Trace <need mod. # info> high-load inverters.  For 220VAC, two will be synchronized by a shared, common neutral.  The Trace units can be yoked or run individually to generate clean, frequency stable, 110 & 220VAC
  4. More horsepower yields more output power.  For intermittent service--such as battery charging, run times will be shorter.
  5. Automotive engines are rated for continuous service over long intervals.  Servicing is far less costly than small air-cooled utility motors.

The typical 10hp home-generator set cranking out 6kw is running flat out, and consumes about 4 liters/hr.  A 70-90hp turbo-diesel automotive engine cranking out 20kw is running at less than 50% load at just above a fast idle.  While consumption will vary according to load, at a nominal burden of 2kw, it will consume about l.5 liters/hour.

The DC is generated via rectified 3-phase alternator (as the name implies, alternators output rotational speed defined AC) output speed rated to match a "fast-idle" output shaft from the final motor selection. This permits the direct, efficient use of the output power for large electrical motor loads (including 220V/3-phase) usage such as: pumps, saws, air-conditioners, etc... Besides, a large AC motor driven as an alternator, makes a very cost effective power source (read: cheap to buy!).

While the actual service interval is yet to be determined (through the use of periodic spectrometric oil analysis) it should approach 365 days of continuous run time.  Consequently, monthly service/downtime periods should be more than adequate for my intended use.

One final point; the automotive motor based generator is to be installed from day one.  It will be used to power the entire lodge and building effort.  In addition, the power-shaft can be adapted to: a hydraulic pump, a water pump, or even a PTO to expand its utility.

As the lodge nears completion, power usage will stabilize at what will become typical usage levels.  At that point the power system will transition from a building/construction/startup/"research" mode to a sustained operation or "living" mode.  During that first phase, living and power consumption would be done much like someone living fulltime in a motor home or live-aboard boat.  You have to plan your usage to coincide with engine run times, and you have to conserve and use your energy wisely.

It is my stated goal to minimize overall energy requirements.  The average home uses 1950kwh/mo.  The lodge's power requirements will be analyzed in order to match consumption with storage and generation capabilities.  

As this goal is achieved, I will implement the next phase of energy independence: the use of several very small engines to drive small generators 24/7.  This will necessitate effective, efficient storage.  Case in point; I can't run an A/C or large power tool on the output of a fractional kilowatt generator.  But, that same fractional KW unit can generate, for continuous storage, enough energy so that one may run an air-conditioner for a storage limited period of time.  I may never be able to cost effectively store that much standby generators may always be a fact of life at the lodge.  But that's part of the research and understanding phase.

There are many ways to lower individual energy consumption.  Certainly energy discipline and efficient lights & lighting are a part (albeit tiny).  The high energy users in our house are: A/C (although rarely used), clothes dryer, and the electric range/oven.  Although we plan on installing gas for primary cooking and heating; a hot-air harvesting system for the dryer and space heating (augmented by conventional methods for convenience); hot-water harvesting system for water and direct heating (floors, pool, spa, etc); and various solar-electric (sun & wind) harvesting for direct electric generation.  So I'll have a broad range of capabilities and an array of assets.  All of the various aspects of the system will be controlled by individual, integrated, microprocessor modules, which in turn will be controlled by a PC dedicated to monitoring the entire system