Rain & Leaves

You may have thought that the reason this site has laid dormant since June is because my turbine has been happily chugging away producing electricity.

Well it hasn’t and I am fast learning that installing a turbine is only the start of the adventure.

We seemed to have cured the resonance problem in June and the turbine was indeed happily chugging but it got slower and slower as the valley dried up. Last year in July we were flooded, obviously someone noted the new turbine, this year a distinct lack of precipitation. Eventually on 19th July it stopped and the only response I could get from it was a short message on the display “water level low”. I contacted the installers but no one was very interested and I thought low water meant low water. After two months of, I must admit, a glorious summer. The guests here were getting fed up of me saying I wish it would rain and I got an email out of the blue from Totnes Hydro. “How’s the turbine running we though it was time for a service”. I sent an angry reply – they had obviously forgotten my email of two months earlier – “the turbine is not running, I thought you’d lost interest”.

They hadn’t lost interest just got a bit sidetracked by the managing director falling and breaking his leg in four places. Anyway they came for a visit. It so happened that we had a short shower and I noticed that although the turbine was telling the same old story “water level low” there was water pouring over the cill on the forebay. Something a bit fishy (Don’t worry Environment Agency – just an expression all fish, and especially eels are being carefully looked after). So interest focussed on the water level sensor. We adjusted it’s calibration by 50mm and there you go turbine up and running again happy as ever.

That was the 17th of September. The resurrection of the turbine to a fully functioning electricity producing machine unfortunately only lasted until the 20th then stop…. All the symptoms were reminiscent of the old resonance days. It started well got slower and slower and then started it’s resonance dance open/close, open/close, open/close stop….

On 7th October Totnes Hydro came to see what was wrong. By then after further tests and much scratching of head I realised that during the slower and slower phase of operation there were a lot of leaves building up on the screener and they weren’t going anywhere. A eureka moment – the screener motor wasn’t working…

Sure enough the Totnes Hydro electrician found a blown fuse – back in action again and the Totnes hydro boys headed home after a good day’s work.

The turbine lasted until today. I woke this morning to find the river full and the forebay looking like the photo above. The turbine meanwhile refusing to budge with it’s old familiar complaint – “water level low”…….. b***** level sensor.

However, I apologise to the level sensor, I’m sitting here now with the water immersion heater turned on and with an extra electric heater running in the other room and still the odd kilowatt winging it’s way to Southern Electricity. (5p a Kw they pay me – must be a way I can use it..I’ll put the kettle on).

It was the screener causing the problem. I can now sympathise with British Rail and their Autumn of “leaves on the track” causing timetable chaos. ……..b***** leaves.   Lots of water this time of year means lots of leaves – too many for my screener anyway. I’ve spent a lovely day down the bottom of the forebay, with a leaking wellie I’ve found out, clearing wet leaves out of the bottom of the “automatic screener”. Obviously a retired British Rail engineer who designed it.

So there you are – nothing like a good blog to get it out of your system.

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4 thoughts on “Rain & Leaves

  1. Hi John, Sounds like it might be worth doubling up on the sensor or finding another way to eliminate that problem, then all that’s left is a re-design of the leaf/debris screening. I guess that this type of problem has been around for some time now and there must be several solutions out there. Maybe you could use some of your surplus power to drive a mincer? or a centrifugal device? or a constantly revolving screening belt – a bit like an agricultural harvester, with a scraper blade …… We could probably discuss this better over a beer or two!

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