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.

Shangri-Laundry

The Shangri-Laundry is located in the basement of this building

In June 2011 the Forest Garden Neighborhood welcomed Shangri-Laundry, a self-service laundromat that is convenient, green, and clean. Parking is available just past the building. There is one double-load washer and one double-load propane dryer, so you can reserve time online for hassle-free scheduling. The primary source of electricity is the photovoltaic array pictured to the left of the building.

    My neighborhood (Village Terraces) has a shared washer, but I like to use Shangri-Laundry when the weather is too rainy for outdoor drying. And, I often sleep too late to get my wash hung on the line in time to dry. 🙂

 

Diana Leafe Christian organized the laundry coop and the system was designed by Greg Geis. It is easy to use. When you walk into the nice, cool basement, this motion-sensor light comes on, so you can see to put your laundry in the washer before inserting money that starts your timed access to electricity: lights, washer, dryer, and DSL broadband Internet.

First you insert bills ($5 or $1)

Then start the on-demand hot water heater (unless you are doing a cold wash)

Then you add soap (supplied for you) and start the washer

 

The laundry supplies environmentally friendly laundry soap and booster for you to use at no extra charge, as well as about eco-cleaners you can buy at Shangri-Laundry.

While the washer is running, you can hang out on the sofa and go online or read magazines that are provided. You can lock yourself in for privacy (and there are toilet facilities). There are plans to install a bathtub later, so you will be able to relax in a hot bath while the machines spin!

 

Here is Greg moving his laundry from the washer up to the dryer. Both the washer and dryer are energy-efficient and have multiple settings from heavy-duty to delicate. The front-loading washer is gentle on your clothes. It senses the size of the load and adjusts the amount of water accordingly. The dryer can be set for a timed cycle or to sense when your clothes are dry. The length of washer and dryer cycles can vary based on the load size and the options you select.

 

 

When you are down to your last 15 minutes (a dollar’s worth of time), a constant beeping will start and this blue light will blink. You can press the blue button to stop the beeping if you don’t need any more time. Insert another dollar as needed to keep the electricity going until you are done.

 

There are many helpful signs to guide you through the steps. The Shangri-Laundry is available for Earthaven residents, visitors, and neighbors. We hope it will help make our lives more sustainable by letting folks avoid a trip into town to do laundry. We are interested in feedback to make the laundry meet your needs–please “like” us and stay in touch on our Facebook Page.

3 Women & a Sugar Baby


And Other Village Terraces Cohousing Neighborhood News

Jenna, Marie, and Liz enjoy Sugar Baby Watermelon from the Village Terraces Cohousing Neighborhood garden.

 

“I never even liked watermelon before now” says Liz Diaz.

 

 

Small and sweet with a green rind, red flesh, and small seeds, Sugar Baby is a heritage variety and did well in our hot, dry, summer conditions.

 

“We must have gotten 40 watermelons from this 10’x75′ patch of garden” says Jonathan Swiftcreek, one of the neighborhood gardeners.

______________________________________________________

Firewood Workday NOT canceled due to rain!

In other news, our firewood workday had lots of rain, which didn’t seem to stop us or the dancing. We filled our firewood shed with wood from our 2008 agricultural clearing. Our boiler system heats our hot water as well as our homes.

Pictured above: Carmen, Bob, & Steve on the top level. Matthew, Lee, & Debbie on the ground.

Pictured right: Carmen and Steve dancing in the rain.

______________________________________________________

Creativity at Harvest-Time

In other news, our basil is going gangbusters and we’re trying to keep up with the pesto making.

And we’re able to incorporate blueberries into our lives on as many occasions as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a busy summer it has been! How did it get to be September? Now we’re into cool nights and changes afoot.