Hut Hamlet Installs New Electric MicroGrid

by Chris Farmer

Brandon and Farmer with the microgrid solar panels

Brandon and Farmer with the microgrid solar panels

In June, residents of the Hut Hamlet became owners/users of the first electric microgrid at Earthaven! Chris Farmer designed the grid with help from Brandon Greenstein. Code for mastering, monitoring and metering usage was written by Jake Farina. Earthaven members produce electricity from sun and water, and are not tied into the Duke Power grid, so this is especially significant to folks choosing simplified lifestyles. Now bigger and smaller users alike will be able to meet their needs, each paying according to usage, the rates differing between peak- and low-usage times. The Hamlet microgrid is solely solar-powered at this time.

Before the microgrid, some Hamlet residents had barely enough power for a light and a laptop, while others had been able to upgrade their systems to power refrigerators and freezers. The new plan, which took many months and many minds to work out, and weeks of disrupted paths and phone lines, has been running smoothly for a few weeks and the future of power in the Hamlet looks, well, …brighter!

Microgrid Technical Points, courtesy of Chris Farmer (SunWorks Electric, 828-664-0268).
The MicroGrid presently powers 11 Huts, the neighborhood kitchen, and bathhouse. The system is touted to produce 31.5 kWh (kilowatt hours) of energy on an average day. (Note: In 2013 the average American home required 29.9 kWh of electrical energy per day.) All of the power available is not yet being utilized.

Hut Hamlet Microgrid Components

  • An 8.16 kW Solar Photovoltaic Array (32 individual 255 watt Kyocera panels
  • A 48 volt 950Ah (Amp Hour) flooded lead acid battery (HUP Solar One) that weighs 3500 lbs.
  • Two MidNite Solar 200 charge controllers
  • Two Schneider Electric XW6848 Inverters, each capable of 6.8kW of continual conventional AC power output. One inverter is asleep ~90% of the time, awakened only when the Master inverter needs help.
  • Excess electricity produced is diverted to a 105 gallon, 240 volt AC, electric hot water heater.
  • Each connection is individually metered. Capital and operating expenses of the system will be determined by users’ weighted impact.
  • The system is backed up by a super quiet Honda EU7000is generator.

Farmer presents his dream for an Appalachian Machu Picchu

One of the ways Earthaven honors longtime members is with Member Appreciation evenings – where the person tells their life story. In this clip from his story, Chris Farmer presents his vision for creating an Appalachian version of Machu Picchu in our village.

Steve Torma ~ Keeper of the Flame

In this post we profile one of our villagers.

“My whole life has been leading toward me doing this role.”

Steve Torma is guiding Earthaven through the awkward teen years as Earthaven’s Fire Keeper. As Fire Keeper, Steve seeks to honor and value the community history while accepting change and valuing transformation.

Steve sees Earthaven as one of the places on the planet that’s grappling with what humans need to do to evolve as a species. Steve believes that for Earthaven to thrive, we need to balance our attention between developing the physical and cultural aspects of the village. To keep this balance, he uses the four-quadrant view of the Integral Model:

  • I quadrant – how I view reality, what I like and don’t like
  • It quadrant– my body and things, such as food and housing
  • We quadrant – relationships between two or more people
  • Its quadrant – systems that we are part of, such as collective buildings, the ecosystem, and external governing bodies

During the first 15 years of the community, Earthaven placed most of its attention in the It and Its quadrants — developing the roads, water systems, community buildings, housing, and farms needed to house the village. With some of those completed, Steve sees “my role is being a catalyst in the I and we quadrants so we can evolve more successfully – be more creative and productive.”

Steve explains more about the Integral Model at Earthaven in a series of videos:

Steve has a strong appreciation for “the value of the group mind and synergy of the collective intelligence.” As Fire Keeper, he is the leader of the Fire Orbo, which is responsible for the overall well being of the community, including peace, safety, spirit, and community process, and is also the President of the homeowner’s association. He is supported in this role by his co-Fire Keeper, Kimchi Rylander, and a committee of Fire Tenders.

Steve’s personal transformation mirrors Earthaven’s. When he came to Earthaven Steve was in poor health and made his living selling books at conferences. After rebuilding his health and co-creating the Village Terraces neighborhood, Steve turned his attention to developing a teaching and coaching practice. Steve teaches through the REAL Center where he offers courses on compassionate communication and the art of intimacy. He also offers personal coaching and mediation services, and is available for workshop and consulting for groups and businesses.

For fun, Steve likes to build and fix things, enjoys lifting heavy objects, and gets deep satisfaction out of seeing the richness of life at Village Terraces and Earthaven. “With each passing year we become more of a village. I enjoy watching the children being able to walk around and knowing that they are held in the safety of our village. I also like having our own cow and chickens.”

What is Earthaven?

In this video, Earthaven Fire Keeper, Steve Torma, answers the question “what is Earthaven to you?”.

Garlic harvesting day!

Debbie and Steve digging up garlic. Photo by Martha.

Garlic is one of the highest value plants we grow in our Village Terraces neighborhood garden – it’s one of the few things everyone eats and is expensive to buy. I especially enjoy that we plant the bulbs in the fall when it’s cool and other gardening tasks have slowed down, and then the new garlic shoots are the first green and growing inhabitants of the spring garden – well before we’ve organized to plant anything else. Other than a couple weedings, they don’t take much care.

This summer started out with some rain and we’ve had dry weather for most of the past three weeks – excellent garlic weather! The bulbs actually went past ripe before we noticed.

Jonathan and Liz with half the harvested garlic. Photo by Martha.

This morning I went out to harvest them before they stayed in the ground another hot day. Steve, Jonathan, and Liz were in the kitchen considering what farm task the could do together for the morning and came out to help. Marie noticed the activity and joined the party.

After three hours of working together we have enough garlic for the whole neighborhood for the upcoming year curing in our woodshed.