A Lowveld Guide to Green Electricity (updated October 2012)
We read a small article in the Farmer’s Weekly a few years ago that mentioned that the amount of coal burnt to create the electricity to heat water for the average bath (we are not talking about those huge Jacuzzi things) is about 50kg of coal per bath. Relaxing in the bath with the image of a huge pile of coal next to one was enough to make us want to give up hygiene altogether! And so we started looking at ways of reducing our consumption. With switching to cooking on gas, changing the light bulbs, tossing the television out (when we started to only enjoy the advertising we realized that the TV had to go..) and installing the solar geysers we have been able to cut our electricity consumption by half. But that was not enough for us and luckily our property is on a gentle slope, we have a dam and access to canal water so…
We have built a micro-hydro turbine station that is driven by water from our dam.
It has taken us four years (from mid 2008 to May 2012) to get a turbine running. This is due to the fact that we decided that developing local capacity was the best move, in this case it turned out to be a very expensive and exasperating mistake. We paid a large chunk of money to the Clackson Power Company from Nelspruit who claimed to have all the expertise that we required. Three and a half years later and four failed turbines (that looked like bad prep school projects patched together with re-spray painted bits and pieces) all we had was the pipe from our dam, some cable and a turbine house. We searched the internet and eventually decided on an Italian turbine (however hard we tried we could not get hold of the actual manufacturers of the Chinese turbines and after our Clackson experience we had a lot of questions that we wanted answers to before laying out more cash).
In October 2012 we ordered our micro-hydro turbine from Sandro Fattore in Italy. Many broken English/Italian emails flew through the ether and in March our beautifully made and functional turbine landed (duty free as it is sustainable technology equipment).
We are looking forward to the day that we can replace our Yaris with an electrical car, which will mean we are effectively filling up on canal water. With the current escalation in electricity prices we will pay off the investment in our system within a few years.
The micro-hydro email group has been an invaluable source of info and guidance for us. If water fires you up then join them!
go to the Micro-hydro group….
The building that houses the turbine is built out of sandbags (citrus fruit bags filled with sand from the site). Theuns Naude is the local expert in this technique. Call him on 082 808 9684.
The building that houses the turbine is built out of sandbags (citrus fruit bags filled with sand from the site).
Source: Article by Tamar Mason
The above article shows how it is possible for individuals to be energy self-sufficient in an environmentally friendly way. Not everyone lives in circumstances where it’s practical to install a micro-hydro turbine station but there are many other ways of generating electricity on a small scale such as solar geysers, solar panels and wind turbines. Energy saving appliances and awareness of your electricity consumption will help to reduce your carbon footprint and your electricity bill. Naturally, water conservation should also receive attention if we want to live sustainably (see an earlier post about our water footprint). Rainwater tanks (filled by rooftop rainwater harvesting) and grey water recycling systems can go a long way to help you obtain water self sufficiency. Water Rhapsody conservation systems have numerous benefits, enabling green living to become a reality for you. Water and energy are linked; renewable, clean sources of energy such as hydro power are becoming essential in our fossil fuel-polluted world. Another ideal green energy source for sunny South Africa is solar energy. Solar panels and solar water heaters are becoming more efficient and less costly making these accessible to many.
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