Life at the end of the road

January 1, 2008

powering the house

Filed under: hydro, life off grid, wind turbine — Tags: , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:30 pm

Dunno why but I always wanted to live somewhere without electricity. Then as soon as I moved to a house without any i started trying to either make it or find alternatives. The first place I moved to in 1985 was heated by a rayburn, lit by tilley lamps, and we had a gas fridge. It wasn’t long before the then OH started to complain about washing everything in the bath and drying it over the rayburn. So not knowing any better I went out and bought a 2.5kw Petter diesel engine to run the washing machine, of course now we had a washing machine then why not get a TV! and whilst the genny is running we could watch TV and charge batteries to run a radio, CB, 12v lights for the dark mornings etc. This of course was completely useless because I was trying to use car/tractor/lorry or whatever batteries and as I now know (after 15 years of trying) that they are totally unsuitable. Starter batteries are just not suitable for constant cycling (charge and discharge)

In 1989 I moved here, again with no mains but at least the house had a genny and was properly wired. It was a trusty lister SR1 3kw Startomatic, though it didn’t actually work and even when  had it rewired it would only stopomatic. This meant i had to go and start it by hand (100yds away) then if  I went round the house and switched everything off it might (if it was in a good mood ) switch off. The problem was that on a windy night you could not actually be sure it was off!02072007032-small.jpg

Here’s the old girl, 1969 and whilst a bit smoky will still do a turn. These old listers will run forever but when I started to fish for crab and lobster it just was not man enough for the 5 freezers so i purchased a newer larger one. Well it was a 1974 so was only around 20 years old and came from an estate down loch Hourn way where it had run 12 hours a day from new and still not had the heads off (still hasn’t). The old twin still runs sweet as a nut though she’s not been used in anger for a few years now. To avoid running these more than necessary i repaired an old Rutland FM910 that had been left here by the previous owner, I made a big tall mast and a huge battery bank from tractor batteries (i still hadn’t learned about batteries)


I had a 12v volt ring main in the house with fluorescent tubes for lighting. It worked quite well but knowing very little about electrickery I used cable that was too light (taken me 15 years to work this out) also as previously mentioned I was using the wrong batteries but despite all this it worked very well.


Having said that i wouldn’t recommend the Rutland, the only reason mine’s still going is because i had a pile of scrap ones to salvage. About three years ago due to increased usage and spiraling fuel costs we decided to buy a proper wind turbine so after much research we went for a ‘Proven 2.5kw’ now this cost us an arm and a leg and we could have got some Chinese job for a fraction of the cost but we live in a very windy remote spot so i wanted something reliable and the ‘Proven’ is certainly that, being a downwind turbine it continues to produce full output when most others have turned out of the wind or put the brakes on. However it does have a higher start up speed and can take a wee bit longer to find the wind.


This is it going up a couple of years ago.


and this is my mate Willy just making sure the cables don’t get trapped.

The turbine charges a bank of 48v lead acid fork lift truck batteries of around 1000ah capacity.


The 48v dc is then converted to 230vac by this inverter.


And when the wind don’t blow for a few days this beauty fires up automatically and charges up the battery bank. This fine piece of kit is a Lister HR2 12kw genny it’s a 1978 and has only done 500hours! when I bought it it only had 60 hours on it as it was a mains failure set from a satellite tracking station.



Since this was originally posted on the 1st of Jan 2008 I’ve added a small Navitron 200w hydro turbine model number ‘XJ14-0.2DCT4-Z’

This wee turbine is designed to produce 200w at 230v from around 5lts a sec at around 12m of head. My head is much higher at 40+m but my flow can be as little as .5lt per sec so I’ve reduced the jet size from 18mm to 7.5 which seems to give me about 140w at flows down to 1lt per sec but I’m still experimenting.

22nd September 2008

A solar panel at last! I added a ‘BP Solar’ 50w panel today and linked it into my 12v battery bank

It will put out almost 3 amps in full sun but even at lower levels it’s doing something

Rutland 910FM 50w wind turbine and BP 50w solar panel

Hydro turbine panel, the top one is battery bank voltage, the middle hertz, which is a great way of checking the turbines speed and load, the bottom one is the turbine voltage and the one on the right DC amps though I’ve since replaced it with a digital one as the analogue one was sticking. It does in fact put a steady 1.75 amps into the 48v bank  and around 4 amps into the 12v bank plus it runs a couple of 21w CFLs.

Hydro panel

Hydro panel

Here’s the turbine in action without its cover on

200w turbine

220808012Small.jpg 200w turbine image by camillitech
Not the best picture but I’ve lost all the good ones 😦 anyway that blue pipe is 63mm in diameter ( 50mm bore ) is 270m long with a head of 40m.
Hydro header tank

Hydro header tank

And this is the other end of the pipe, basically a 25 gallon galvanized  water tank with an old washing machine drum inside as a filter. The screen on top catches most of the crap and when the burn is in spate it gets washed off. The outlet to the turbine is about two thirds the way up the tank so sediment lies in the bottom and the excess just overflows. This is it during a frosty dry spell running at its minimum of around 1lt per second, usually it’s gushing out of that old BT duct at 10lts per second!

Things have moved on

Gosh it’s been a a while since I’ve read this post and oh how things have moved on, well in the hydro department at least. Seven years on from it’s installation the Proven is still going great, though they went bust and got taken over by Kingspan. The Navitron ‘cheap and cheerful’ turbine was replaced two years ago by a ‘Stream Engine’ from and I’ve now added a into the mix

The Stream Engine is a high voltage unit with a transformer that directly charges the batteries

The Powerspout is a high voltage DC unit that feeds into my AC bus via an SMA inverter




Well things have really moved on, with the price of PV tumbling we invested in four of these from Navitron and what a difference they have made in the summer. Now with almost 1kw of solar on our roof as well the wind and hydro turbines we’re well on our way to total energy independence :-)


  1. Hey paul
    will try and figure out how to do a link…. If you are good with this website stuff call by and you can help me… Saw your pigs today they are so cool

    Comment by Roland — January 20, 2008 @ 3:45 pm

  2. Welcome
    I am from Poland Heniek
    wants to find out how does this turbine navitron
    the efficiency with which they manage to obtain

    Comment by Henryk Faron — March 21, 2009 @ 7:18 am

    • Hi Henryk from Poland,

      I’m not really sure about the efficiency of the turbine at converting the power from the water into electricity if that is what you mean, It’s a ‘turgo runner’ so I guess around 90%. The overall efficiency depends on your frictional losses in the pennstock pipe and resistive losses in your electrical cable which can be reduced by larger pipes and bigger cables.

      Good luck, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 21, 2009 @ 8:59 pm

  3. What make is your water turbine ? It reminds me of a Canadian one i see on the web. It is expensive but seems very adaptable from the nozzle aspect. Most others seem to be high head/low flow or low head highish flow with nothing in between. To just generate 100 – 200 W 24/7 seems ideal. What voltage do you use on it as i believe the canadian one can be 240V – feed in grid and make money. Ken

    Comment by Ken Brackwell — April 8, 2009 @ 11:57 am

  4. Paul, it’s a great set-up you have. I am at the other end of the country, in Devon, and I have a small project growing stuff in a polytunnel, halfway up a hill. We want to heat the tunnel over the coming months using renewables, and we only need to maintain a minimum of 8˚. So I’m deciding whether to go for a small turbine or a PV array. Your info on the Proven generating 3 phase is something I had forgotten 0 and makes me suspect if we go turbine we should think bigger than the 1.5kw I had in mind. perhaps a 5-600w solar array into 500sh batteries would do us just as well. Got to start somewhere, eh? Anyway, it’s great seeing what you’ve done, fair play. ivan

    Comment by Ivan — October 7, 2009 @ 9:58 pm

    • Hi Ivan,

      If you do have a good wind resource then that would be the way to go but you do need to be in an open windy spot with no obstructions either that or have a VERY tall mast. Much as I love solar PV it is not the answer for heating anything over the next few months, well not unless you have a really big array.

      It would be worth visiting for much better advice than I can give.

      Good luck, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — October 9, 2009 @ 5:26 am

      • Thanks for the steer Paul. I ran a quick check on the siz array I had in mind, and got a prediction of 20kwh per month, so it does indeed seem to a be turbine that we need. I’m awaiting an anemometer to test the locations i have in mind, and then it will be a suck it and see process. Apparently our basil is starting to get mildewy spots, so I need to get cracking. Cheers, Ivan

        Comment by Ivan — October 9, 2009 @ 10:18 am

      • Hi Ivan,

        the Navitron site is a pure goldmine for info, good luck with the project.

        Cheers, Paul

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — October 11, 2009 @ 2:35 pm

      • Hi Paul, I hope all is well in the wilderness. We finally had some wind today (5.1 m/s average this evening), so I’ve been looking at locations, and the best one is 270 metres from where we need the power. My research tells me that a 48v cable could lose 20% of its power to resistance over that distance, could you tell me do you think AC current would lose less? What I can do is put the batteries and inverter at the base of the tower, and go with AC from then on – there is a risk of electrocuting the odd sheep, but apart from that it seems the right way to go. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance, Ivan

        Comment by Ivan — October 19, 2009 @ 7:59 pm

      • Hi Ivan,

        I’m no expert but don’t think it makes that much difference AC or DC at low voltages, here’s the calculator that I use My turbine is 160 m from the inverter and I did consider going down the same route as you suggest but on balance felt that it would be better to have sensitive electronics and batteries that need regular checking in a proper shed near the house. Apart from that I see no reason why not, why not ask on the forum for sage advice.

        Cheers, Paul

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — October 19, 2009 @ 10:19 pm

  5. hello paul. strange small world – i was browsing the navitron site and came across the raasay map and red cross. you might not remember, i visited maybe 10 years ago from plockton for one of the parties… since then, have settled a bit, built a passive solar house on the croft and am vexing on whether wind power or solar power is the best alternative. inevitably, if oyu ask or refer to a company, they recommend what they sell… i have 4.8m/s av wind, more i reckon, but also sort of like the idea of no-moving-parts of PV. I would be interested in your thoughts as a local/objective/experienced user. you seem to have had some fun experimenting with everything. hope life is good! alex

    Comment by alex glasgow — February 18, 2011 @ 11:17 pm

    • Hi Alex,

      sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you, those were some parties hey 🙂 Much as I love wind power and my turbines I’d be inclined to go for solar PV if you’re grid tied. Even if I wasn’t grid tied I’d advise anyone who does not live in a very exposed location and is not good at fixing things to go PV 🙂 Wind is fantastic as it tends to give you the most power when you need it but it is all about ‘location location location’ and a turbine does need regular attention. PV, as you say has no moving parts and just keeps on working.

      As far as wind turbine performance claims go, treat them all with a pinch of salt, whereas the PV calculators are pretty good.

      Hope this helps and stay in touch, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 20, 2011 @ 6:00 pm

  6. Hi, was just searching for some Lister SR1 diagrams to find the easiest way to remove some shims from flywheel side of engine to reduce end float and consequently reduce the knocking sound caused by too much end float. you came up in the search because you mention having an SR1 I guess. Must congratulate you on nearly getting to the point of free energy and being at the point where your trusty Lister is sitting in as back up stand by. I am aiming to get to that stage. Best Regards, Kim

    Comment by Kim — July 13, 2011 @ 12:18 am

    • Hi Kim,
      Hope you get your SR1 sorted, Ive never had to do more than a barrel and piston job plus a set of big ends insitu on a Lister so don’t know much about the ‘end float’ but normally you increase the size of the thrust washers to reduce it.

      Good luck, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — July 13, 2011 @ 9:26 pm

  7. Hi Paul, many thanks for your encouraging reply; yes! success all sorted out today (fired her up at 9pm this evening and sounding a lot sweater than yesterday evening!
    If you ever hear of a starter ring and motor for sale second hand or the whole flywheel with starter ring for SR1 would be much obliged for an email with details. The thick solid ali air shroud has a hole for starter motor….
    Cheers, Kim.

    Comment by Kim — July 13, 2011 @ 10:57 pm

    • Hi Kim, glad you got sorted, what did you do ?? As for the flywheel they’re a bit like hens teeth with the ring gear on. That plate for the starter motor fools many people into thinking that there’s a ring gear fitted 😦 Probably easier to find an alternator with the DC windings in like they have on the ‘Startomatics’ However, I’ll ask around and email you if I find anything. I’m assuming that you’ve come across this site and this one

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — July 14, 2011 @ 5:23 am

  8. Dear power guru, how have you your harry to start up on auto, (ie what kit)I’ve acquired a similar set up from a radio station, but am struggling to get her to fire up on auto, all due to a stubborn smr wire!

    Comment by marty lauri — October 5, 2013 @ 2:45 pm

  9. PowerGuru!!! only me again …my harry hr2 is now at least on a slab! That’s all… My other half a dozen Listers lie in various states of undress around the garden.. but at least I do have a broken wind turbine blade thanks to the storms… Hey ho, the joys, Another time..
    Any road I been thinking, see we ,, like you, dont have mains electrickery so why was I tinking I needed to wire up an ATS!! After all we dont have mains to transfer from..silly old me..!! Sometimes I’m a bit thick!!what I do need to do is simply start Lister hr2 at a pre determined voltage (ie when batteries are low!) Then switch off an hour or two later and then repeat as necessary.. Do the DSE modules or any other you know of have a generator start mode based on voltage (not mains failure) cause the module will be running off the same battery supply..without the need for DC or ac contact breakers etc, simply put When V = 11.5dc Fire up Lister, on this smr wire!! When V = 14.5dc stop Lister on this Fuel solenoid wire… Does this make any sense?? I bet it does 🙂 happy new year x

    Comment by marty lauri — February 20, 2014 @ 10:27 pm

    • Morning Marty,

      sounds like progress and I’ll be in touch shortly, bit ‘snowed under’ just now, have to rush to work.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 21, 2014 @ 6:07 am

    • Hi Marty,

      what you say makes perfect sense but I’m afraid it’s not quite as simple as a voltage sensitive relay, if only it was. I dunno your setup or requirements but two things stick out 12v and switch on and off every few hours, both big a big ‘no no’. 12v systems are fine for small boats and campervans but not for ‘off grid’ systems with any attitude. By that I mean anything over about 1500w as the currents are just too high 1kw load will draw over 80amps a 1.5kw 125amps whereas a 24v system will be half that and a 48v system even better. Half the current, half the cable, fuse, relay and controller size, reduce the risk of fire and get more longevity out of your batteries. Which brings me onto the next reason why what your proposing is not a good idea, batteries need charging properly to perform well and live long.
      You really need a ‘three stage charger’

      3 stage charging

      and that’s going to take a good 5 or 6 hours. Simply using the voltage to trigger your charger will not work especially on a 12v system. Imagine your batteries are fully charged at 13.8v, you switch on an inductive load like a fridge or drill, the voltage drops momentarily to 11.5v as the compressor or motor starts and then so does Mr Lister 😦 Conversely as you’re charging your batteries the voltage rises as the charger pushes current in and then the relay switches off the HR2 long before the batteries are anywhere near charged up.

      What you need is a decent inverter/charger that will have algorithms programed into it to charge batteries fully, provide clean AC and start your generator.

      For instance, my Trace inverter/charger which is now ‘old technology’ would start charging for a 12v system at different voltage/time ratios. If the batteries sat at 12.3v for 24 hours the generator would start, 2 hours at 11.8v and it would start, 15 minutes at 11.5v and 30 seconds at 11.3v. They’re also programmed to ‘load start’ at different currents, not for charging but for ‘power assistance’.

      You just cannot charge a battery properly using a relay or anything purely driven by voltage, first you need to charge at a constant current in the ‘bulk stage’ which will push a 12v battery up to 14.5v then at that constant voltage for a few hours for the ‘absorbtion stage’ after which the voltage will drop to around 13.8v. However, even knowing these values does you no good as any loads you are operating at the time of charging and there after would also cause the voltage to fluctuate and confuse anything purely driven by voltage. An inverter/charger will also take that into account.

      Good luck, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 21, 2014 @ 9:08 pm

  10. Power guru!! Much obliged you have at last woken me up!! I only wish this box would let me send my full reply!!
    Do you know if the DSE thing acts as an inverter too, or am I been daft..again..

    Comment by marty lauri — February 28, 2014 @ 8:25 pm

  11. So grateful for enlightenment, honestly. ..wish I’d paid more attention to the amp versus volts thing 5 years ago!! we have been running off 12 v for just under 5 years now, and I’m beginning to feel sad for my kids having no TV in the mornings till I fire up any number of half working engines this time of year!!
    It’s not always like this only between November and march . my 14 80w PV panels plus my now broken futurenergy turbine was starting to work well (especially as we have south facing wall for panels..
    System works OK for the summer months and autumn then I go into a depression again!!
    We have all led lighrz , TV , LPG for cooking and heating washing machine water!! I’ve 6 6v trojan and plenty of old now knackered powersafes!! ( I too am Learning slowly about batteries)
    Weve had to pretty much chuck all modern heavy consumptive stuff away, tumble driuers, (we use a maid dolly on pulley) we don’t use anything with an element , no microwaves here no compressors and no freezers, only a small 1 1 metre square fridge with small freezer box.. Cant remember last time I ironed a shirt!! But I did buy an evo camping one 600 watt!! For funerals and weddings .:-)
    So I’m thinking I should rewire panels and batteries to 24v asap and make do with most of what I got till I got the money to go 48 volt.. I’ve only recently wired up proper charge controller that’s working well now too 🙂 🙂 before I would switch the unused toaster on to control battery charge …tis true…
    Oh I have a sterling power 3kw 12v inverter, bit miffed its not also 24v, else I’d be out there now rewiring..
    So I best get me a 24v inverter before I think about the DSE module, or do they function as inverter too like your trace sw.. ??
    Oh I have a c tek m300 25 amp charger which does work well for now… I do try to top up batteries to full as often as I can once i got a lister , LPG or petrol geny working.. Which all seem to want to break at the same time…
    Anyway enough of your time, basically if you were me what 3 or 4 things would you do to enhance things
    I’m determined to prove we can continue to live fairly normally like this before the next sprogg comes along this summer or I end up in an asylum ..much appreciated as always.Marty

    Comment by marty lauri — February 28, 2014 @ 8:26 pm

    • Hi Marty,
      wish I’d paid more attention to the amp versus volts thing 5 years ago!! we have been running off 12 v for just under 5 years now,
      Don’t worry about it, took me fifteen years 🙂

      So I best get me a 24v inverter before I think about the DSE module, or do they function as inverter too like your trace sw.. ??
      Yup, I’d agree, you need a good 24v inverter/charger like a Victron, Sunny Island or Outback, personally I’d steer clear of Trace as they no longer have any UK dealers. Sadly a DSE will only start and stop your genny 😦 and with some inverter/chargers you may still need something similar. The Trace (now Xantrex) has all the required relays fitted, as does (I think) the SI, the Outback needs something called a ‘Mate’ which is basically a DSE module and the Victron and Studer inverters just a simple switch.

      A 25amp 12v charger is about as much use as a chocolate fire guard and if that’s what you’ve been using Marty then I can safely say that your Trojan’s are fecked 😦 You need to be charging at around 10% of capacity, so if you’ve got 6 x 6v 225ah Trojan’s then that would be 3 x 225 or around 675ah, so I’d say at the very least a 60amp charger

      I’m not being condescending or pretending to be some kind of expert cos I’m not, and I’ve made far, far more mistakes and fecked more batteries than most people, but then I’ve been ‘off grid’ since 1985.

      What I’d do in your situation mate is spend hours looking at some of the forums in my sidebar, like , , and where you will glean much info on life off grid, which, if done right can be far more reliable than the ‘big six’ and a lot more fun.

      sounds to me like you need to fix your Futurenergy, get a decent inverter charger, more PV (which is now dirt cheap) and perhaps new batteries.

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 28, 2014 @ 10:04 pm

  12. Hi, we are also remote and using a st1 with a 24v battery bank and invertor. we are near kinlochbervie, where are you? Like to pick up some info on this renewables stuff, Can you help.

    Comment by david forbes — December 12, 2014 @ 10:43 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: