HydroSolar

Living sustainably with renewable energy.

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The HydroSolar site continues to be a work in progress with changes and additions occuring often. It utilises some of newer HTML5 elements and therefore to view it correctly you need a modern web browser. Recent versions of FireFox, Chrome and Safari having been tested and shown to work. Internet Explorer will likely have problems.

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HydroSolar is a Supervisiory Control And Data Acquisition [SCADA] System

My aim with developing the HydroSolar project is to better understand renewable energy systems and to design and construct the electronics and software systems to perform the functions of automatic control and provide facilities to view system parameters as well as current and historical data for my own renewable energy setup.

The name, 'HydroSolar' came to me from the two energy sources I have on my property, namely hydro, energy from water and solar, energy from the sun, thus HydroSolar was born.

The HydroSolar controller itself is an electronic device which performs the functions of being able to read various sensor data values and make decisions based on certain criteria and then output control signals to other devices. The controller is based on a popular open source hardware design called 'Arduino'. The particular Arduino controller used for the project is a 'Arduino Ether-Mega' produced by 'Freetronics'. It comes with an Ethernet controller and SD card adapter onboard, together an abundace of inputs and outputs.

Initial design specification for the HydroSolar controller project
  1. Read accurately sensor data and apply suitable filtering and or smoothing
  2. Utilise electronic hall effect devices for sensing of electrical currents
  3. Maintain statisical data for sensor readings
  4. Log to a storage medium various analogue sensor data as well as calculated statistical data
  5. Have effective control methods for the charging of the battery bank from input energy sources
  6. To have a level of fault detection of system breakdown
  7. Utilise solid state relays for heavey load switching
  8. Provide alarm trip point settings for critical functions
  9. Connectable to the internet for remote view-ability of all data as well as trending
  10. Ablility for solar array tracking option at future date
  11. To be an achievable and fun project to do.

The HydroSolar project came about through a need to better monitor and control a small stand alone renewable power system. I shall begin with a little history. Since around 1996 I have lived off grid, that is, I have not had a connection to the main electrical utility. Rather, I have produced my own electrical power from using electric solar panels together with a small micro-hydro turbine. Systems like this are typically referred to as stand alone renewable energy systems or remote area power supply or RAPS.

Fortunately my property has a small mountain stream that runs all year. It enters the property at the highest point and leaves at the lower boundary which is very close to the lowest point of the property. The total fall of the stream on the property is around 37 metres and I thought this would be sufficient to produce some worthwhile electrical energy. From the local library I borrowed what I could, one book in particular, 'The Microhydro Design Manual' being a constant book in my home. It taught me ways to understand what I needed in order to have my own microhydro system. I had a large excavator dig a nice pond where the water enters the property at the high point of my property. Also I had it dig a trench from the pond all the way down to the lower boundary, some 300 metres in distance. In this trench I laid 100mm sewer pipe and then backfilled with dirt. Initially this 100mm pipe went to my first microhydro turbine, a Gilbert and Gilkes unit with a masive 4" inlet with beautiful machined spear valve to direct water onto the 13" pelton runner. I had this coupled to a rather large alternator via a double V belt pulley drive. The alternator was a single phase 8KVA unit. Both the Gilkes turbine and the alternator were very much too big for my small water stream, though I have wonderful memories of walking down to the turbine in the evening and climbing onto the turbine and just sitting there, listening and feeling the rumble of the main shaft spinning. It was spinning at a low 500rpm or thereabouts and I found it quite amazing to know that useful electrical energy was being produced. But, the system was too large and needed a good flow of water all the time to make it work well. The mountain stream is a raging torrent during the winter months, and becomes a languid and peaceful trickle during the summer months. This variability in water flow needed a better sized setup. I had a 100mm pelton runner in the shed and so I went about making a small microhydro turbine. I obtained an industrial 3 phase motor, with a rating of 1kW. It would have been used on a small conveyor belt at the nearby vegetable processin plant. I coupled the 100mm pelton runner to the shaft of the induction motor. 'The Microhydro Design Manual' provided me instructions on how I could add some capacitors in a certain arrangement to produce a useable single phase supply from the three phase. A generator like this is know as IMAG, or Induction Motor As Generator. I used adapters to couple the 100mm pipe down to 50mm and then finally down to 25mm where it again feeds into a small spear valve. This system has been in good working operation since around 2005. Over the years little has been done to the system as it continues to operate very well.

This section needs a lot of editing

Yep, it needed deleting and needs to be re-thought

To better describe the electrical side of my renewable energy system, below I detail the individual components that make it up.

In addition to the microhydro system, I presently have two medium sized solar panels, each of a capacity of 195 Watts at 24 Volts. Together, they add up to around 400 Watts of power. Until the HyrdoSolar controller is further developed, I shall continue to use a commercial solar controller, a Plasmatronics PL40 to regulate the energy from the solar panels to the battery bank. In the near future it is my intention that the two solar panels will be mounted to a new frame that will be capable of tracking the sun, thereby further increasing potential energy input.

The present battery bank has a rather small capacity, consisting of four 6 Volt 220 Amp/hr cells arranged in series to provide a 24 Volt system setting. The batteries are deep cycle Exide GC-135. They were purchased new in Q4 of 2011, replacing a bulky and an ageing set of second-hand 2 Volt 600 Amp/hr cells.

The power loads on the system I think are quite modest, with almost all appliances powered through a 500 Watt sine-wave inverter made by a company called SEA, 'Solar Energy Australia'. To list briefly the AC loads supplied by the inverter, they are half a dozen low wattage light globes, washing machine, surround-sound system, central heating hydronic water pump, Dell D830 laptop and an Apple Mac mini. I find people are constantly amazed that such a small sized inverter can willingly power so much without a problem. And has done so 24/7 for over ten years now. Surely, a testament to the quality of design and build of the inverter.

Apart from the inverter, the only 24 Volt load that is connected to the 24 Volt DC bus is the refrigerator. The refrigerator has a low voltage Danfoss BD50 compressor capable of working on either 12 or 24 Volts DC and consumes typically around 36 Watts while the compressor is operating. The operating duty cycle of the compressor varies during the year depending on the ambient conditions, so in the cooler winter months it operates less than the summer months.

This page will describe deatils of the Arduino hardware controller used for the HydroSolar project.
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It will be writen up soon I hope
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Well, it's taking a little longer than I had hoped.
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This page will describe deatils of the electronic sensors used to measure various valuse of HydroSolar
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It will be writen up soon I hope
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It will have more lines than this I am sure.
This page will describe the Arduino PID loop conroller and PWM functionality used in HydroSolar
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It will be writen up soon I hope
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It will have more lines than this I am sure.
This page will describe the software written for the server, server-side software.
I will talk about how data is transfered between the Arduino and the server.
Also about the data that is sent to a SQL database on a hosted site for retrieving later by the client side.
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It will be writen up soon I hope
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It will have more lines than this I am sure.
This page will describe the software written for the browser, client-side.
I will talk about the framework used, backbone.js and how data is transfered between the Arduino and client.
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It will be writen up soon I hope
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It will have more lines than this I am sure.