Large hydro ranch system

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craneplaneguy
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Large hydro ranch system

Post by craneplaneguy » Nov 24, 2017 11:10 am

I flew out to a remote ranch on the Idaho/Nevada border last week, the new (bought it 3 years ago) ranch owner was having issues with his power system. Off grid, WAY off grid, with a hydro system that was being worked on by others. I was able to find a place to land about 2 miles from the ranch, and after getting the eMontague out was making good time until I ran into mud so bad it was impossible to continue. Freeze and thaw cycles are tricky on a dirt road with no gravel, with part in the shade and part in the sun, it went from easily rideable to totally not at all rideable in about 40'!

The ranch cowboy picked me up in one of those big ATV's for the last half mile to the power building. A nice purpose built cinder block building, with a separate side dedicated to the large diesel gen set, which was roaring away. A quad OUTBACK inverter power panel, all real nicely installed, and then the bad part: two giant (3300 lbs. each) forklift type batteries, all sulfated up. With the hydro down, the ranch two homes (set up when the hydro was fully operational, with no care or attention given to power conservation) was running off of a 1650 watt PV system, and the diesel genset. The OUTBACK MATE display showed the power currently (ha ha) be used was bouncing around between 6500 and 8500 watts, a fair bit of power. The 48 VDC system was at 56 volts, but as soon as the gen set was shut down, dropped to 42! They appeared to have one of more bad cells in the battery, dragging down and screwing up the entire system. Also lots of corrosion on the interconnects.

Quizzing the cowboy about the hydro, he seemed to recall it had a 8" pipe as a penstock, at least as it entered the power shack, which was 2 or 3 miles from the power shack we were in near the ranch homes. I never did make it up there to eyeball it, no place to land and time was short. 200 PSI was mentioned, whether static or dynamic he couldn't tell me. Conventional overhead wires and utility poles connected the two power shacks, it was really a nicely setup system that had unfortunately fallen on hard times due to neglect. A very rough estimate (assuming the 200 PSI mentioned was dynamic pressure) showed that when the hydro was running as it should, they would have somewhere around 15 to 26 KW on tap, 24/7, a hell of a lot of power! Unless they had some very large intermittent loads, I questioned why they needed that monster battery pack, which was going to need to be replaced, from the looks of it, and why I was called in to consult. The place is so remote they have a hard time getting anyone to make the drive, but for me it was just another excuse to do some back country flying, a lot of my off grid work I've done is because I fly a plane that can land about anywhere, and love doing so, as a result any off grid remote area customers of mine get prompt service with a smile, assuming the weather is decent anyway!

As of now, I've gotten a quote to replace the battery bank with new packs, direct from a large wholesaler that deals in forklift batteries. They are easy to move, assuming one has a forklift or tractor, the ranch has both, being in heavy steel cases, and are more cost effective then many smaller batteries all wired together. Plus, I've found that the least amount of individual cells to reach whatever needed capacity, the better. A few monster cells, is much better then lots of small ones, less chance for the cell chemistry to get out of whack over time due to interconnect corrosion, poor maintenance etc. The last 24 VDC off grid system I set up, used just three batteries, but they were 8 volt each and weighed 340 lbs each, and it all penciled out better cost wise then compared to a boatload of L-16 types. if nothing else, many less cells to water, and NOT doing so is the primary cause of early death in off grid systems. Central watering systems help a lot, just keep the central reservoir filled, but even that sometimes get neglected. Sealed batteries side step all this, but are easily twice the dollar per stored AH, nonetheless,the ranch owner also wants a price on using them instead of flooded. The sealed types also "run cleaner" over time. They don't put out the gases the flooded ones do, which seems to lead to the corrosion on the interconnects etc., not to mention they don't need to be vented.

I took one large sealed/AGM battery system apart (24 VDC, about 1200 lbs) 10 years after I first installed it. Repeated cycling had made it do what most batteries of any type do, wear out/lose capacity. This is one reason I really like being grid tied nowadays instead of off grid like I was for 28 years! The cells were in a steel rack I welded up, and then boxed in with plywood, all on heavy casters. I did all this in my home shop, and then delivered it and the systems power panel (also prefabbed in my home shop) with the boom truck I had then, (the battery box had built in rigging points) so once on site (remote area, again) in less then an hour we had AC power. The complete power panel (with PV charge controller, 4 KW inverter, breakers, etc.) was carried by two people and screwed into the basement wall framing, and the battery rolled along side it, all I had to do on site to get instant power was hook the battery leads and the PV cables into the power panel and throw a couple breakers. But I digress, when I opened up that sealed 1200 lb AGM battery 10 years later, it having received zero attention during that time, it was as clean as the day I installed it! Zero corrosion anywhere, it just simply wore out internally, it really made me a believer in them for off grid use, despite their still much higher cost then flooded. I'll post a few pictures when I get around to it.

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fechter
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Re: Large hydro ranch system

Post by fechter » Nov 24, 2017 12:27 pm

I had a micro hydro system at some property near hear years ago. About 50w on a good day. It was OK for the little trailer I used for camping on weekends. Hydro is a really nice setup if you have the water.

If the rancher has enough money, I would go for Lithium Titanate batteries instead of lead-acid. Supposedly good for 25 years or more.
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craneplaneguy
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Re: Large hydro ranch system

Post by craneplaneguy » Nov 24, 2017 5:15 pm

The pictures:
rsz_battery (1).jpg
neglected battery
rsz_11powr_panel.jpg
outside view of power shack
Attachments
rsz_out_pow.jpg
rsz_hot.jpg
canyon hot springs a few miles away!

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liveforphysics
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Re: Large hydro ranch system

Post by liveforphysics » Nov 24, 2017 6:55 pm

He may be good candidate for used Bolt/Volt/Leaf/Tesla EV packs. Used they are often cheaper than lead useful Wh to useful Wh, and if sized to normally only use the middle 50% of the pack capacity and kept in a cool location it would last a long time.

Fetcher is correct about Titanate being the best possible option, but only coming in the Honda Fit EV and a couple other applications they are tricky to source.
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craneplaneguy
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Re: Large hydro ranch system

Post by craneplaneguy » Nov 27, 2017 10:45 am

To no surprise, it's looking like the best bang for the ranch's buck for a replacement battery, is going to be a brand new fork lift battery. Can't beat, yet, the cost effectiveness of "good" old flooded lead acid for very large off grid systems. A 48 VDC 1340 AH (at 20 hour rate) battery that weighs 3305 lbs is $6217.00.

As a comparison, and hoping to be able to set them up with A COST EFFECTIVE sealed battery, I priced out Outback's Nano-Carbon sealed batteries, for a 48 VDC 854 AH battery that weighs 3230 lbs. again with free shipping, my cost is about 14K.

With numbers like that, you can talk new battery tech all you want, but I'm pretty sure I know which way the rancher will go! My past experience, more then 10 years ago, setting up an off grid home with a large AGM/sealed battery system showed they were a LOT more money then flooded types, more then double, (but that customer had plenty of dough) I had assumed, or hoped, that the price disparity between the two type had come closer, not yet! As of now I am recommending he go with the new fork lift type, but also spring for an auto water system, and I will also make sure he knows how to protect the terminals/connectors against corrosion better, (Vasoline, believe it or not, is great for that) and the biggie: making sure all connections are torqued and re torqued once a year. I have given him my pricing on the deal, my profit will be the scrap value of the old battery, which I'll have to haul 100 miles to the nearest recycler, after driving 100 miles to get to his site.

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fechter
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Re: Large hydro ranch system

Post by fechter » Nov 27, 2017 11:09 am

That's a pretty big system.

One other possible choice might be Nickel-iron batteries (Edison cells). These last nearly forever with an occasional electrolyte change.

https://ironedison.com/nickel-iron-ni-fe-battery
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Re: Large hydro ranch system

Post by spinningmagnets » Nov 27, 2017 11:58 am

Large off-grid storage systems are not concerned with size and weight, so they have the widest variety of options. That being said, the owners do not typically want to experiment, no matter how "cutting edge" the new tech may be.

I recently looked at doing lithium conversions for golf carts, and no matter how much I insisted that the new lithium battery pack would last three times longer (actually longer than that, but I was trying to be more believable for the first few customers)...the initial installation price was a big decision driver. So flooded lead acid it was (once I provided the quote). Higher speed, longer life, and longer range were not persuasive.

My biggest concern was the electronics portion of the system, because I was worried about the pack being killed. I suspect that this is also a big driver for any customer being quoted big bucks for something they will be depending on...located far from tech help in a storm.

Since the generator is 2-3 miles from the battery, I assume the gen sends AC across the power poles? If yes, what voltage is it sending. I once read about a system that generated 220V AC and sent it a fairly long distance, and only converted it to DC at the battery, which was in a shed next to the home.

Zero and Volt battery packs are high-amp cells, I would look for wrecked Tesla packs for the material to built a power wall storage...at least then the DIY modules could be smaller and easier to transport, to be assembled at the site like Legos?

craneplaneguy
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Re: Large hydro ranch system

Post by craneplaneguy » Nov 27, 2017 12:24 pm

fechter wrote:
Nov 27, 2017 11:09 am
That's a pretty big system.

One other possible choice might be Nickel-iron batteries (Edison cells). These last nearly forever with an occasional electrolyte change.

https://ironedison.com/nickel-iron-ni-fe-battery
Yes, I've heard good things about them also. But..... $38,000.00+ for a 1000 AH 48V pack :shock:

My proposal is submitted, since my last post, at this point I'd bet they'll go with what they know, flooded lead acid, for reasons spinningmagnets mentions. I also got a price for what my local scrap yard will pay me, 5 cents a pound if I leave the 2 volts cells in the steel case, 15 a pound if I pull them, think I know which way I'll go there. Using my tractor front end loader and a purpose built cell grabber, I can get them out of the case in less then an hour, for an extra $300.00. The scrap value of lead must be down, thought it might be a bit more then that.

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fechter
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Re: Large hydro ranch system

Post by fechter » Nov 27, 2017 1:32 pm

Wow, I didn't see the price. That does seem a little steep for 1800's technology. So lead it is...
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Re: Large hydro ranch system

Post by Hillhater » Nov 27, 2017 4:21 pm

Did anyone know what was wrong with the hydro system ?
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craneplaneguy
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Re: Large hydro ranch system

Post by craneplaneguy » Nov 28, 2017 11:04 pm

I was not at all a part of that, but got a garbled account of it having something to do with the automatic waste gate (I think that's the right term), something anyway to do with the device that controls the turbine speed by reducing or increasing the water flow, in order to keep the voltage produced stable. Once that was resolved, they then realized the generator it self needed a rebuild. I believe this unit produces AC, but don't know at what voltage, or exactly how it integrates with the huge battery bank. I did notice dual battery chargers, that were AC powered. The system seems to be a mix of DC and AC and I really didn't have the time or inclination to try and figure it out but just kept got the info I needed on replacing the battery, as that was all i was asked to do.

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