Life at the end of the road

March 20, 2011

Early, even for me :-)

Filed under: animals, daily doings, hydro, life off grid, pigs, shed/house, stonework — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 10:23 pm

No posting last night for I’m ashamed to admit that I was in my bed by 19:30 on a Saturday night, shame on me, I was even too tired to pull the cork on a bottle of red 🙂 Long gone are the days that I could do a days work then party until the small hours and then get up at 6:30 without an alarm clock. Well I can still get up without an alarm clock just not all the other stuff.

I had, been to the Renewable energy and heat fair in Fort William which was well attended and left my head buzzing and arms aching with all the leaflets I acquired. Every renewable angle was covered at the fair, though many of the solar PV/DHW stands seemed to by staffed by former double glazing or conservatory salesmen 🙂 Both technologies can produce significant savings to the owner and CO2 reductions for the planet but if the salesman is on so much commission that he drives a 4×4 and then jets off to Florida it kind of defeats the object 🙂 Of course not everybody has the knowledge or time to fit such a system there self and I’m sure that prices will fall as competition increases but I can’t help thinking that this whole FIT (feed in tariff) is a bit of a scam by the government. Basically if you pay someone who is MCS certified an arm and a leg to install you a renewable energy system then you will receive a guaranteed payment for every Kwh you produce for the next 25 years, and for solar PV it’s around 40p per unit.

All this would be very laudable if the government were funding it, but they’re not, oh no not a penny of it, the money comes from a levy on everybody’s electricity bill 😦 Well not mine of course because I don’t have one, so basically all the poor people who live in flats (or anywhere else for that matter) and all the old people who can barely afford their bills anyway are paying a levy for wealthy people to cover their semi’s in solar PV 🙂

What makes even more nonsense of this scheme is that I could claim the money even though I don’t export any power to the grid. Of course it has little to do with saving the planet and is all about ticking boxes, a very large box, that decreed the UK would reduce it’s CO2 output by 30% or something by 2020 (please don’t tell me I’ve got theses figures wrong cos I don’t read papers or watch TV but I aint far off). Of course this particular promise was made by a government that knew it wouldn’t be in power then, but hey that’s life 🙂

Me, I’m not convinced by this whole man made global warming carry on, the climate has been changing for millennia, that’s what it does. The ancient Egyptians, the Indian tribes of Arizona, the Minoan’s Etruscan’s and God knows how many other ‘ans’ were wiped out by climate change so it’s nothing new. What is new is six billion people and a very real ‘peak oil’ just around the corner, so if we don’t stop leaving lights on, buying cr4p we don’t need and driving places we could walk then the planet is well and truly screwed 🙂

Sorry for that ‘wee rant’ where was I 🙂

  200311 008

Well actually I was on the car park at Lidl because the Nevis Centre was full, and despite going ‘off on one’ there it was a great exhibition.

Anyway, by the time I got home I was fit for nothing other than bed as I needed to be fresh for today, the exhibition (and a good friend ) had been pushing me towards an ASHP (air source heat pump) to heat the new house. However the fitting of one of these an ‘Ecocent’ ASHP and pressurised hot water cylinder. However living ‘off grid’ it would need to have a dedicated power supply, or at least a guaranteed one.

I’m trying to make the new house totally ‘renewable’, power, heating, the lot, we do have an abundant supply of wood but I’m not getting any younger so want to make wood just a back up. So it’s down to wind, hydro and solar. With this in mind today’s first task (after feeding everyone) was to get water flowing at the new hydro site around a mile away 😦

 200311 012

And it’s not a straight easy mile by ant stretch of the imagination, it’s hard going, but I had a good team 🙂

200311 017

Loch Beag is not easy to get to by quad but if I’m going to tap into it then walking is not an option, 500m of penstock pipe and 1500m of SWA cable has to go in by mechanical means.

I’d already dragged some pipes down there on my own, the task today was to try and get them joined together and water flowing through them. The problem being that I had to get the water flowing over quite a large ‘hump’ before it would siphon. If the site is viable then I’ll get a machine down there to bury the pipe but for now I just want to see if it can sustain 3lts/sec which will give me all the power I need.

200311 020

Despite the dry suit,

200311 025

it was boodly cold on the hands 🙂

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Eventually however we got the water flowing and I adjusted the valve to give me a steady 3lts/sec


200311 034 200311 037

before putting a few markers into the loch.

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Then it was on to a spell of cutting rushes for bedding,



then we let Shona’s piglets out before shutting them in the trailer to worm them.



200311 056

Just before the evening feed we took another run down to Loch Beag to see if all was well then walked down to the shore where the turbine would be situated some 70m below.

 200311 041

It was whilst wandering around here that I came across this old stone bridge,

200311 042

perched on a cliff where a burn flows down it must date back to the days when Manish was inhabited, for who else would walk this way.

200311 043

Unless it was for access to a boat mooring at the south side of the loch.


Map picture


  1. Paul, with the amount of pigs you have on the croft would a methane digester that uses the manure from the livestock be a viable option as yet another source od energy? Burning the methane (biogas) directly could be used for heat and hot water. Never mind converting an engine to run on it as fuel.

    Comment by Arild Jensen — March 21, 2011 @ 1:33 am

    • Morning Arild,

      don’t think that I’ve not given the ‘pig pooh’ option a thought, after all I did see Mad Max, beyond the Thunderdome 🙂 but as they’re ‘free range’ it would mean following them about with a bucket and I’ve not got the time (yet 🙂 )

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 23, 2011 @ 5:51 am

  2. the piglets are very photogenic, the one with his little black pettitoes, but molly is the star. love the still shot of miss molly surfing the back seat of the quad. what a grrrrrrl!!!

    Comment by jeannette — March 21, 2011 @ 4:10 am

    • Morning Jeannette,

      Molly is most definitely a ‘quad dog’ 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 23, 2011 @ 5:52 am

  3. Hi Paul.Spot on with the rant.I wonder if the in the future all buildings will have to feature compulsory solar panels?Cheers Andy.

    Comment by Andy — March 21, 2011 @ 10:57 am

    • Morning Andy,

      have you not got any yet 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 23, 2011 @ 5:53 am

      • No.A breakthrough in fusion power is near in this house.My wifes hot drinks and cooking are constantly hotter than the sun 🙂

        Comment by Andy — March 23, 2011 @ 10:45 am

      • Morning Andy,

        you’re lucky that your wife makes you drinks 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 24, 2011 @ 6:05 am

  4. If I were you I’d claim the FIT. After all, you’re not running a generator any more so you have reduced your carbon footprint more than most people so take the devils shilling. Think about it this way, if you claim the money, the government can hit its goals faster and you’ll be screwing some salesman out of his 4×4 which has to be good.

    It’s a shame that it all has to be installed by an MCS company as well – I was looking at wind turbines/heat pumps etc. but although I could afford to go for a DIY install I can’t afford an MCS system so I’m not going to reduce my carbon footprint because of this. In fact I think I shall go and burn some coal in a fit of pique.

    Comment by Tony Giles — March 21, 2011 @ 7:40 pm

    • Morning Tony,

      I can’t be bothered with the paperwork 🙂 life’s too short 🙂 I’m just going to keep on ‘bodgeneeiring’ 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 23, 2011 @ 5:55 am

  5. @Tony

    There are everyday plumbers, builders, roofers and electricians who can easily cope with solar hot water and PV. Accumulate the parts yourself (I’m doing it from one Surrey’s richest natural resources – car boot sales & Ebay :), then do a bit of a drawing… Just remember TPTB don’t really want you to have independent power, MCS is a method of taking the profits off you up front rather than over the next 20 years! Solar HW & PV DO NOT cost £25,000 to install!!

    Paul – a great blog – thanks 🙂

    Comment by Timbo614 — March 21, 2011 @ 9:43 pm

    • Morning Timbo and welcome aboard,

      well said 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 23, 2011 @ 5:57 am

    • Hi Timbo,

      I’d be happy enough with doing it myself but without the FIT it just isn’t economically viable – if I had any spare cash I’d do it for environmental reasons but unless it’s going to save me money it’s a case of food or green energy.

      Comment by Tony Giles — March 23, 2011 @ 7:56 am

      • Good point, but you don’t need to make a profit on the entire system. I am doing it because I’m going to retire within the next 8-10 years (I’m 57). I want cheaper ongoing bills after I retire. So I am going to invest the money now and take the benefit slowly. It’s easy to shrug off £120+ a month bills when you are earning, but with destroyed/non-returning savings funds and all, its going to seem a lot harder on a pension! As an investment (with gas & oil & ‘leccy prices only going one way) my calcs say it will return 6/7% rising to 13-15% in 10-ish years time. Try getting an annuity at those rates! Straight renewable is not all of my plan… as a hint you need Economy 7 (at least) some timers, BIG inverter/chargers (I’ve settled on Victron for reliability and link-ability), and a err.. a battery bank. Current Night time Economy 7 is 4p/Kwh against 10p+ during the day (60% saving). When a smarter grid is available and those windmills are spinning away at night – they will be almost begging us to buy the night time power (well that’s my theory!). The (currently small) PV is just there to keep the system topped up during the day (If sunny) as the less I cycle the batteries, the longer they will last and Solar HW is a no-brainer on costs! Cheers!

        Comment by Timbo614 — March 23, 2011 @ 4:34 pm

      • Morning Timbo,

        I like your style, that’s just what I’m doing at 54, planning to make my retirement as cheap and easy as possible but I think you’ve made a big mistake in dismissing solar hot water. It is (even at this latitude) the cheapest, simplest and most reliable of renewable technologies, if of course you do it yourself. There are dozens of people on who have done it there self. There are quality DIY kits available here and cheaper clones on eBay. If you’ve a SE through to SW facing roof solar hot water will supply 70% of your DHW in the summer.

        The only reason I’ve not got it now (it’s going on the new house) is that we get little sun on our SE facing roof due to mountains and trees 😦

        Also an excellent article by Gary here if you want to build your own.

        Cheers, Paul

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 24, 2011 @ 6:15 am

      • Hi Paul,

        You mis-understand my Surrey lingo 🙂 “No-Brainer” – means you don’t need to think about it – it just works! I built my first solar water heater in 1976. Boy did I miss the boat there! It was direct. So for the bad winter days it had an eiderdown and tarp. 😉

        But thanks for the links – I will take a look. I have one extra requirement for this install – that it be fairly easy to remove and re-install in my “retirement house” that complicates it a bit and also means I don’t want to put stuff on the roof 😦

        Comment by Timbo614 — March 24, 2011 @ 9:38 am

      • Good morning Timbo in deep and darkest Surrey, I kind of thought it was strange you dismissing the most obvious one, seems like you’re way ahead of me 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 27, 2011 @ 6:28 am

  6. I meant to say – have you every considered a regenerative fuel cell? It’d allow you to store the excess electricity you generate during peak periods and not just dump it.

    Granted you’d probably have to cobble a system together but you seem to have most of the bits you’d need for the storage side of things…

    Comment by Tony Giles — March 23, 2011 @ 7:37 am

    • Morning Tony,

      once we’ve sorted the new build out we’ll be dumping into a thermal store to run the UFH and DHW but I have to say I do like the idea of fuel cells.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 24, 2011 @ 6:04 am

      • A swimming pool makes an ideal thermal store 😉

        Comment by Tony Giles — March 24, 2011 @ 12:30 pm

      • Morning Tony,

        my swimming pool days are over having spent most of my working life swimming 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 27, 2011 @ 6:30 am

  7. paul, will you be using solar hot water for radiant heat as well? underfloor, radiators?

    Comment by jeannette — March 24, 2011 @ 9:21 pm

    • Yes Jeannette, solar, wind and hydro 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 27, 2011 @ 6:31 am

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