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Humming Hydro

August last year (2016) my micro hydro turbine, a Powerspout PLT, catastrophically disintegrated. I blogged shortly after ‘When Things Go Wrong’ about mistakes I had made which ruined the hydro and gave us all here at Wongari Eco Retreat a lot of hassles. It would have been worse but for very understanding guests. But, now, some 8 months later I regret my hasty mea culpa.

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In retrospect, I should not have been so hard on myself when I initially entertained Ecoinnovation’s (supplier) theory. When I tried to challenge it I became the worse person on the planet and now they have excommunicated me from their businehydro-5ss books.

In summary: they said I had failed to properly grease the bearings; allowed my unit to operate in a soundproof enclosure that inadvertently created an environment of high humidity, therefore unfriendly to greased bearings; and added, belatedly, I had allowed my hydro unit to operate while submerged (or partly thereof)!

The only flaw in their theory was that none of this occurred. It’s amazing how one can be so certain and yet be so wrong. I put it down to ego. Michael took great offence that his fifteen years of engineering greatness (I’m not being entirely sarcastic – he has done a good job and has plenty of recognition for this) should be questioned by a lay person, albeit, one who is actually onsite.

What actually happened, which I can now say I have worked out only over time and without the help of Ecoinnovation, is that my own knowledge was incomplete and my experience was less. I put this system into our most recently built rented eco-cabin, Bimbul, where I was unable to monitor the unit for large periods of time. If I had been around I would have known that the hydro was running ‘wild’. It did this because it could not off-load unwanted electricity it was constantly making in my ‘standalone’. That is, the hot water was fully heated, the batteries were totally charged, no power was being consumed and the load dump (for excess electricity to burn, a common bar heater) was inadequate to the task.

The sad thing is Ecoinnovation could have learned from this as well as it was application, more so technical issues, which led to the meltdown and this would have been good advice to future hopefuls like me – if only for that reason.

I invited Ecoinnovation to discuss the issues with me but it didn’t quite fit their business model. Any discussion with them was at an hourly rate. They obviously didn’t think mutual benefit quite cut the mustard. Instead, they only saw their professionalism being questioned and/or given away cheaply. The unfortunate corollary of this is that they think their customers have little to offer unless it is a compliment or more business.

So my recommendation to those in my position: a hydro turbine is a fantastic option if you are in a position to install one but be aware: you will need to be able to monitor it on an ongoing and regular basis. While I would use a hydro again I will do it at home or at least not make it an off-grid standalone hydro but one feeding mains. That yet may be the best remedy to my situation for Bimbul.

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