Monday, April 15, 2013

The Lodge's Hydro-Electric System

A lot of people have asked about our hydro-electric system here at the lodge, so I thought I'd put some pictures here on the blog.

This is the famous hydro intake--a small dam makes a pool of water (on the right side of the photo) and you can see the algae-covered (green on white) pipe coming out at the bottom of the pool. Sadie creek supplies our fresh water to the lodge and the power to generate electricity.

Here's the intake in the winter. When we get a cold snap, we regularly lose some power because of ice forming on the intake grate and reducing the volume of water coming through the pipe. Sometimes the intake will be completely blocked by ice or an avalanche of snow and we'll lose power completely until we can get it clear again.

Using a bucket to see where the ice is on the intake. The green ice axe works well for climbing up to the intake as well as for removing the ice. By trial and error I found that it's easier to see the intake grate if you cut the bottom out of the bucket.

Jen's sister Pattei went up to the intake with us on their recent visit.

Getting up to the intake in the winter can be a little challenging. We usually have to snowshoe and the more snow we get, the steeper some of the slopes become. You can see part of the black hydro line there on the lower right side of the photo. This has been a light snow year so far, so the line is not yet completely buried out of view.

Feral doesn't think it's all that tough to get up and down the hydro line. Of course, she has built in four wheel drive and traction devices.

The hydro line is about 9" in diameter. This "T" section is a rock trap--it's supposed to let small rocks, which sometimes get into the line, drop out before they jam the nozzle at the lower end. Mike (the lodge owner) had to take the pipe apart to clear a rock out right after he installed the trap.

The hydro line leads into the hydro shed.

Just outside the hydro shed the pipe runs through a heated, insulated box. The 1.5" line in the lower right corner of the picture is the line that provides fresh water to the lodge. There is also a 3" valve in the upper left corner (hard to see) to attach a fire hose. We can also use this valve to drain the line if we need to.

Inside the hydro shed is where our electicity is produced. The 9" line feeds a 1 5/8" nozzle that you can see in the lower righthand corner of the photo. The nozzle directs a high pressure stream of water onto the twin cups of the pelton wheel (in red housing), turning a shaft that drives a belt which turns a 14KW alternator (gray cylinder). The black thing behind the alternator is a fuel tank for the back up gasoline generator.

Fun Facts: The pressure from the nozzle is 110 psi. The pelton wheel is 24" in diameter and turns at 600 rpm, driving the alternator at 1800 rpm.

One of our weekly caretaking duties is to grease the bearings on the Pelton Wheel.

The water exhaust coming out of the hydro shed.

The hydro exhaust comes in as a handy spot to get fresh water when (not if) our waterline to the lodge freezes.

In the lodge's kitchen, we have a breaker panel, gauges, and a load controller to automatically keep power at 60 cycles. We subconciously check the lights every time we go into the kitchen.

The system produces 3 phase power--these gauges show the voltage on each phase, and the gauge on the right shows the cycles.

The load controller automatically dumps excess power into a dedicated water heater to keep the power right at 60 cycles. The gauge at the right snows how much power is going into that water heater. We also have 4 steps where the controller will incrementally add excess power to different electric heaters in the lodge as well as a second water heater. The red light in the photo indicates that we are on the first step with 750 watts being directed to a heater in the lodge library. If we get up to the 3rd or 4th step, we manually turn things on to use more electricity--how's that for luxury? If we get down below the 1st step or if the cycles dip below 60 cycles, we start manually turning things off. If the power gets too low the green light goes off to let us know we've screwed up.

This shows our neat and tidy system that allows us to keep our hot water heaters full if we lose running water to the lodge. The dump loads from the controller divert power into these two water heaters. The water boils off and if we don't add water manually, the elements go dry and burn out. We normally add 5 to 10 gallons to the system three or four times a day when we lose domestic water but still have power.