Life at the end of the road

March 16, 2011

Do NOT try this at home :-)

Filed under: animals, daily doings, hydro, Land Rover, life off grid — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 11:02 pm

Even though I was up at 6:00 and have barely stopped moving all day I don’t actually seem to have done a great deal. It was however one of those days that just made you glad to be alive, and had I done nothing at all I would have still felt good. As usual I’ve a mountain of jobs on the ‘to do’ list this week ranging from cutting bedding to clearing ditches. The first thing I wanted to do however was to stick a pipe in Loch Beag to assess the feasibility of another hydro turbine to help power the new house. With a 1500m cable run and a 500m pipe run for the penstock I wanted to get my sizing correct before splashing out. It all really depends on how much water I can take out without altering the level, or at least not altering it more than an inch or two between showers 🙂

There’s not a huge catchment area and there’s only about 1lt per second runs out of the bog to the north west. One litre a second is not very much but with a head of 75m it’s almost 330w according  Michal Lawley’s excellent online power estimator on his PourSpout web site . What I was hoping to do was get double that or even treble over the wetter months. However the cable required to move one kilowatt almost a mile is three times the price of one required to run 330w so there’s no point putting a thick cable in if I’m not going to be able to extract 3lts/sec. Exactly the same goes for the penstock, I have 1.6Km of 50mm UPVC ducting on the croft already.

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This would quite happily supply up to 1.5lt/sec to a turbine 500m away with only 10% loss of head but it’s not got any kind of pressure rating and is in 6m lengths. It’s also not UV stabilized so would need burying and ‘Polypipe’  the makers had a fit when I mentioned pressurizing it 😦 If I were to use this pipe all the way it would have a static head of over 7bar (100psi) at the turbine, less when running but a good deal more if the nozzle got suddenly blocked by a frog (it has happened 😦 ) so it would have to be able to stand 12 bar for a second or two at least. Of course I could use this just near the top and higher pressure stuff lower down, but for now I was just curious to see what it, and the solvent welded joints would take 🙂

Not as dangerous as it sounds 🙂

What I needed to do was make up a test sample of two bits of duct that would include at least one glued joint and one sleeved joint then pressurize it 🙂

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It took me a while but eventually I got all the stuff together from odds and ends on the croft, using my Navitron 200w hydro turbine valve and gauge at one end,

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and this ‘jury rig’ at the other. A 63mm exhaust clamp, a Land Rover orange ‘polybush’ some plumbing fittings and a dry suit inflation valve to supply the snakes, SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS 🙂

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I have to say that I was pretty pleased with the result, the gauge on the end would read the pressure and the diving cylinder would supply it via the first stage of a demand valve and a dry suit whip. The first stage drops the 200 bar cylinder pressure to a much healthier 12 to 14 and I filled the test rig up with water to reduce the amount of stored energy. I also (as an after thought) pointed the ends away from anything crucial (like my Landy) before slowly opening the valve.

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I was well impressed it held steady at 11 bar with no leaks and no increase in diameter of the duct,

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at 12 bar however the Land Rover ‘Polybush’ blew out bending the retaining screws on the way 😦 Still the duct and pipe had held good and I’d be unlikely to use them for the full length anyway.

With the pipe tested and a means of coupling it to the blue 63mm pipe sorted I set off to the loch trailing 25m of pipe behind me and a bucket load of clay pigeons.

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We took the short cut using the only remaining part of ‘Calum’s road’ at Tarbert, you can still see the drains 🙂


Map picture

You can clearly see it on the satellite image.


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And if you’re wondering what the clay pigeons were for, they were to mark the unforgiving route over the many old peat cuttings 🙂

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Once I’d been up and down a few times the route got easier to follow and by the end of the day the markers were superfluous but towing 60m of pipe means you can’t reverse very easily 🙂

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Once the 25m of blue pipe was in position I went for 60m of the UPVC, choosing to take it as near to the site as possible with the ‘Old Girl’. The MDPE pipe is very forgiving and takes little harm from dragging over tarmac, the UPVC on the other hand is for less resistant to abrasion so I took 10 x 6m lengths and glued them on the heather before towing them to the loch by quad.

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After towing that 60m length down I returned home to make a filter out of part of HMS Opal, or perhaps it was HMS Narborough, no one will ever know.

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HMS Opal and Narborough were ‘M class’ destroyers wrecked on Clett of Crura an unforgiving cliff of South Ronaldsay in the Orkney islands , all hands, bar one seaman were lost and their wreckage lies strewn and polished by the sand and tempestuous seas below that foreboding cliff. And if you would like to read a tale of bizarre coincidence and a cormorants nest then I recommend checking out this link 🙂 weird hey. With that fine bit of gunmetal from almost 100 years ago attached to a fitting made up of yet more odd bits of pipe I returned to the loch.

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This fine nine pointed stag, in great condition refusing to move out of my way until I was almost upon him.

Anyway, all this took far longer than I expected and by the time it came to actually getting the pipes in the water I was running out of light 😦


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  1. did i miss an announcement for the building of a new house? mazel tov!

    Comment by jeannette — March 17, 2011 @ 7:31 am

    • You have clearly not been paying attention Jeannette 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 17, 2011 @ 10:32 pm

      • my bad!
        the herculean nature of your labors on the fence have inspired me, btw. you’re beginning to remind me, in a different way, of the madness of greg, over at petch house.

        he’s restoring a vicotorian heap in eureka, california, atom by atom and all by hand. there was like a three month period where he cleaned, with dental picks, the 100 year old floor tiles he salvaged from a saloon which jack london may have drunk in. he’s all about upcycling, as you and mr. eyre are, which is a kind of — immortality for stuff.

        best of luck on the new venture, i’m excited for all of you.

        Comment by jeannette — March 18, 2011 @ 1:57 am

      • Neat house,

        so there really is a Eureka in California, , I thought Mylo had made it up 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 18, 2011 @ 7:11 am

  2. I expect you’ll be installing your own submarine communications cable next to give you a wopping 1000Gb broadband connection.

    Comment by Lorenzo — March 17, 2011 @ 9:21 am

    • If I could just watch a video on ‘YouTube’ or upload a post at the first attempt I’d be happy Lorenzo 🙂 As for BBC iPlayer or Four on demand, Don’t make me laugh, I only pay £50 a month 😦

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 17, 2011 @ 10:40 pm

  3. Hi Paul.Cracking pictures.I like the pressure testing setup,maybe genuine Land Rover parts need to be used in future trials?Looks like you may need to pre-cast a few thrust blocks to keep this thing in place and hold joints together.Get your camera ready for the supermoon tides at the weekend,could be interesting.Cheers, Andy.

    Comment by Andy — March 17, 2011 @ 10:28 am

    • What I need Andy is your surveying gizzmo 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 17, 2011 @ 10:42 pm

  4. Zut alors M’seu! Us French are always being blamed for blocking things! Je proteste!

    Comment by Mike — March 17, 2011 @ 11:01 am

    • Morning Mike, thought I’d lost you 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 18, 2011 @ 6:24 am

  5. Do people put expansion vessels at the bottom of penstocks to cushion hydraulic shocks? A piece of pipe upwards a bit then along and upwards slightly with a tyre valve on the end would do it, I’d have thought.

    Jeannette, he has mentioned it here I think but not said an awful lot yet.

    Comment by Ed — March 17, 2011 @ 11:06 am

    • Morning Ed,

      yes I’m contemplating it on this one, certainly if I use the dodgy pipe 🙂 I’ve seen the method you describe and even just plain adjustable pressure relief valves but I’ve got a large expansion vessel, similar to a central/solar heating one but much bigger so was thinking of using that. Not because it’s any better but just because I’ve got it 🙂

      Cheers, Paul

      PS are you going ti Fort William ?

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 18, 2011 @ 6:29 am

  6. Fascinating stuff Paul. Wouldnt it be good if a home tidal power kit came onto the market soon, all your power needs would be sorted.

    Comment by simon — March 17, 2011 @ 4:01 pm

    • Morning Simon,

      don’t for a moment think that I haven’t thought about it [IMG][/IMG] there’s approximately 360 cubic meters of sea water goes in and out of here twice a day 🙂 [IMG][/IMG] 🙂

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 18, 2011 @ 6:37 am

  7. Hi Paul.
    Good to see you’ve got another source of water power for your energy use, but won’t the freezing of the pipe in winter do harm to it.

    Comment by Polite Scouser — March 17, 2011 @ 8:48 pm

    • Morning Walter,

      freezing can be an issue (my mates froze for a week) but the constantly running water means it has to be VERY cold, mine’s only ever frozen once for a day or so. The MDPE pipes are quite happy and don’t split but perhaps it may be an issue with the UPVC, must fill a length with water and stick it in the freezer. Cheers for pointing that out.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 18, 2011 @ 6:41 am

  8. I didn’t understand what you meant about “the short cut using the only remaining part of ‘Calum’s road’ at Tarbert, you can still see the drains”. Isn’t it Calum’s road all the way from Brochel to Arnish?

    Comment by Neil King — March 17, 2011 @ 10:54 pm

    • Morning Neil,

      no, this bit of Calum’s original road must have been deemed unsuitable due to a severe hairpin bend at the top, it does in fact follow the old path (more or less). The new bit that the council put in is known locally as ‘The diversion’. I’ve always felt that this section of road should be restored before nature consumes it (one of the reasons why I’ve been using it)

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 18, 2011 @ 6:46 am

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