No, no, no, I have not made another baked bean Madras. Once was enough for anyone’s lifetime. I have never felt so deflated, nor so totally empty.
This is about the Green God’s Gadgets. Again, no need to worry. I have not grown a straggly beard and had all my arm muscles replaced with lentils and string beans. I am still of the firm opinion that the entire man-made global warming rubbish is a control freak scam and believe me, smokers are currently best placed to spot those. Especially smoking scientists – which is what I am.
However. I am and always have been attracted by the notion of free energy. Okay, yes, it’s never really free. You have to buy the thing that turns sun or wind into electricity and it only works when there is actual sun or wind around. I get that. It’s not just about electricity bills though.
Living way out here, internet is best described as dire. Sometimes teeth-grindingly slow and sometimes it will die out for short random intervals. I have been looking into a 4G connection. That will work if I place the receiver at a certain point at the kitchen window (yes, it’s that bad) but it can work.
It still won’t work if there is no electricity. It doesn’t matter how many phones or tablets or laptops you have fully charged, when the power goes of and the router stops, it all stops. Unless you stand in exactly the right place with your phone. A little restrictive, I think you’ll agree.
Two issues here. Recently, someone drove a truck or tractor into the phone line pole at the end of the drive. Phone and internet were off for a day until it was patched up, and off for another few hours another day while they fixed it properly. A small issue? Yes, but it can happen again.
The phone line passes through trees and trimming back those trees would be a job for a tree surgeon. Get it wrong and you’d bring the line down right now. Ignore it and one day, one of those branches will fall on the line and bring it down. It will happen.
The other issue is the electricity supply. This is prone to random outages. The local distribution transformers are at the top of a hill – safe from flooding but not from lightning. It’s not too frequent but sometimes there is no electricity.
This is a bigger issue for us than for most. Cooking is not a problem, we have a hob powered by gas bottles outside. Heating is a small problem, we have a wood burning stove in the living room and an entire elm tree cut into small bits in the barn, so could huddle up and survive an extended blackout.
The big problem is water. Our supply comes from a well via a pump. The well head supplies the pump tank by gravity but the pump supplies the rest of the house through filtration systems. That has to have power. No power, no water.
I have considered buying a generator. There is an old huge rusty one here which could probably be put in working order but the amount of fuel and oil those things can go through in regular use is horrible. I am still considering one as an emergency backup. It would really only need to run the water pump as the most vital component of the system, so a small one would suffice.
But… could I sustain the pump with a Green God Gadget using 12V batteries and an inverter? It does of course depend on how long I’d have to do it for but it’s possible, at least for a short outage.
I looked into it. Solar is a bit of an issue this far north. When the problems are most likely to arise – winter – the sun peeks over the horizon, says ‘ screw this shit’ and ducks back down again. You can’t charge a little garden solar light in winter here.
How about wind? We get quite a bit of that, being on top of a hill. Well, okay, but it’s not really reliable. On a still cold day after a storm there’s nothing to charge the batteries to run the pump.
Both options are very expensive to install. The Green God might be here to save mankind but he ain’t doing it for free. No sir, he’s an expensive consultant indeed.
Maybe these things will pay for themselves eventually. Maybe not. There’s only one way to find out and it’s risky. What I need is a Scotland-oriented reliable power generator.
Rain. Rivers. Streams. I have never seen a hosepipe ban in Scotland. Water is not short of supply here, it drops out of the sky most days. So, if I get a windmill, put cups on the ends of the blades and dip it in the stream next to the house…. I have something far more reliable than wind power.
What if I install little waterwheels all along every downpipe from the roof? Each one only generates a little bit but if there are 20 or more per downpipe it would add up.
Sun power is sod all use in north Scotland in winter. Scratch that one. Wind power is a bit better but windless days happen – and often when it’s really cold. Water though… there’s a lot of it and it’s always moving. Best of all, you get no energy from the water itself.
Water power is actually gravity power. 20 waterwheels in a downpipe or drain – how much energy does the water lose from one waterwheel to the next?
None. The energy is not coming from the water. The water is a vector. The energy is coming from the gravity pulling the water down, and that is inexhaustible. It does not matter whether you have 10, 20, 100 waterwheels in that downpipe. The last one gets the same driving force as the first one.
The same is true in rivers and streams and our ancestors knew this. They could build one or forty watermills along a river. It made no difference at all. If you were in watermill 40, you saw no difference in river speed from watermill 1. No energy is extracted from the flow of the water because that’s not where the energy is. It’s gravity. Water flowing downhill. It would work the same if it was dry sand flowing downhill. Gravity is the energy that cannot run out.
Nobody seems to care about this. It’s all ‘buy solar panels, buy little windmills’ and they will work some of the time. As I said, here in north Scotland, solar panels work when you don’t need them and wind can be capricious. But the river always flows.
I have a map of this place dated 1768. Both the main river and the stream are on the map and both are still here. Neither have any record of ever drying up. They flow and they flow and a watermill will not slow the energy in that flow by a single joule because it is not the water that is the energy in the flow. It’s gravity. That is the real free energy but the Green God’s Followers don’t want to exploit it. There’s no money in free stuff 😉
So I am wondering. I have candles for lighting, I have all sorts of backup batteries for computers (enough to keep the little ones going at least), I have alternative heating and cooking arrangements, so really I need to power the water pump and possibly a 4G router in a total outage. I don’t really need a big generator.
You know, if it came right down to it, I could bypass that pump and use the gravity-fed water from the well. Unfiltered and risky but better than nothing and boiled, it would be mostly okay.
So. If I get an old car dynamo or alternator from the scrapyard, fit it to a waterwheel with sufficient diameter to ignore the seasonal rise and fall of water level, and dip it in the river, I could have a more reliable bank of backup batteries than anything the Green God’s Gadgets have on offer.
That river is not going to stop flowing tomorrow. The wind might.