Life at the end of the road

March 21, 2015

Four months on

Filed under: daily doings, How I, hydro, life off grid, wind turbine — Tags: , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:59 pm

Well the eclipse, equinox and full moon all passed by without incident and the world didn’t end. On the contrary our Vodafone signal returned on the first day of spring, a full four months after disappearing in December. This will be ‘the fault that never was’ according to Vodafone and dozens of phone calls and emails failed to get any action from them. In the end I changed to 3 Network but wifey and the Dude have been minus a useable phone phone here since we moved in.

I have to say, considering I’ve been with them for around fifteen years they did sweet FA to help and wouldn’t even acknowledge an issue. This was despite loads of other people in Skye and Lochalsh complaining of the same problem. Customers who’d had a phone signal for ten years then all of a sudden it became unusable and Vodafone telling them ‘there’s nothing wrong with the network’.

Spring at last

So much for that effort, I started a ‘Vodafone rant’ last night and almost fell asleep at the ‘puter’, nothing unusual about that, except that it wasn’t even 8:00PM!!! There I was at the keyboard trying to stay awake, constantly looking at my watch and determined to stay up until after eight at least. In the end I gave up at 19:40 and slept right through until 6:15.

Right enough, it had been a busy old day, that first day of spring.


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I’d left the house early to do a little work on the Torran track, when we had the machinery up here last year we’d had to put a pipe in the drain here to get the Dumper past. In retrospect we should have removed it afterwards and opened the drain back up as it simply could not cope with the West Coast deluges.


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After that it was time to watch the eclipse but the weather was far from ideal.

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Funnily enough the ‘post lady’ had a better view of things on the way to work.

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Moving the ‘Stream Engine’

My next task was to connect the ‘Stream Engine’ hydro turbine up to the ‘Sunny Island’ system at Sonas as it had still been supplying power to ‘number 3’ and the chalet. With the chalet no longer in the equation I decided to move it up to my ‘powerhouse’ behind the barn. The 10/16mm square cable that used to supply the barn and house site prior to the installation of the SI6.0H would be ideal for moving the 3 phase supply from the Canadian turbine . The ‘Energy Systems and Design’ turbine has been producing power for me since 2009 and I’ve not spent a penny on it.

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With a bronze ‘Turgo runner’ and four different sized nozzles it can cope with a wide range of flows, which is ideal for it’s location, the burn at the bottom of our croft. It’s little more than a drain really so reduces to a trickle after a few dry days but when it’s raining hard it can give out 800w for days on end. Having said that it never produced a Watt between May and September last year.

The turbine produces 3 phase electricity around 300v and then it’s transformed and rectified down to battery voltage for direct charging of my bank. The first task, prior to actually moving the transformer up to its new home was to clean out the ‘header tank’ and switch off all the nozzles.


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Once that was done I set about mounting the transformer next to the 800ah 48v Roll battery bank.


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That ‘Siba’ forklift truck fuse is just a temporary affair until I get a more appropriate 16amp DC MCB.

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Once all connected up it was producing around 250w and 24 hours later had ‘clocked up’ 6kWh on my new meter.

Spring proper

After my 10 our plus kip I was greeted by a proper spring morning and wasted no time in ‘getting stuck in’, straight after doing the hens I did a little bit more on the track.

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Filling a few potholes before I did a little clearing up around the house site and then going to collect my front window lintels.

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Yup, you’re right, I’m using four old railway sleepers on the gable end of our new house, a little unconventional to say the least. Trust me, it’s gonna look amazing with the natural stone, it better do or the wife will kill me Smile

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Next job, after frightening a few crows and pigeons with my semi automatic shotgun was to get on with the new hen run.

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There was more, much more, it was that kind of day that just made you want to do stuff. I pottered about in the shed tidying up and got the sleepers in there ready for cleaning up and cutting to size. The Dude came around and helped out (at £8 and hour) with cleaning out the hens and doing some fencing and I did a little work in my ‘power station’.

SI6.OH ‘off grid’ system

The new house is gonna be spectacular when it’s finished but my ‘pride and joy’ will always be ‘the shed’, not the big shed but the wee one at the back. This will be the one I made entirely from second hand wood, roofing sheets, windows and insulation.

Nicknamed the ‘Power Station it now houses just about all the hardware required to supply our ‘off grid’ property with seamless and reliable power, far, far more reliable than SSE, at least on Raasay.

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This will be the ‘core’ of the system the SI6.OH ‘off grid’ inverter/charger, to the left of it are two of the four ‘Morningstar’ 45amp controllers. The Sunny Island SI6.OH converts battery DC voltage to usable ‘mains AC’, takes control of the battery charging and requests a ‘generator start’ if required. It does far more than that but that’s the basics, underneath it is it’s MCB and below that a ‘transfer switch’ for the generator.

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This is the 800ah 48v battery bank comprising of 16 Rolls Surette batteries, 8 in series 2 in parallel. After much discussion and research I chose these, mainly on account of fitting some for a friend and being seriously impressed with their performance. Forklift truck batteries seem to be the ‘weapon of choice’ for most serious ‘off gridders’ but I wanted to ‘give these a shot’ after fitting some here at ‘The Old Schoolhouse’ three years ago .

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I’ve been watching them closely ever since and have been well impressed.

One thing I did learn was that ‘it’s hard on the back’ checking them, so I’ve mounted mine on a heavy duty table and once the house is finished I’ll be insulating them with the leftover Kingspan.

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Here we have the other two 45amp TriStar controllers, consumer unit, Powerspout meter an ‘AC disconnect’

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There’s a lot going on here Smile top left the inverter for the Powerspout hydro, next to that a spare 3800w SMA inverter that can be used in event of the unlikely failure of the SB1200 or WB6000 on the right. Bottom left the transformer for the Stream Engine. Right of that the wind turbine rectifier then MCB’s for the ‘hard wired’ generator circuits. The rectifier ‘next door’ is spare at the moment but the kWh meter and switch to the right are for the Proven 3.2kW turbine.

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And this beauty will be Harry, the system ‘lifeboat’, if all goes to 5h1t Harry will ‘pick up the slack’, at 15kVa he’s a little ‘OTT’ but he’s a ‘high spec’ MOD Lister and I got him delivered to Skye for £1100 with only 50 hours on the clock, that was twelve years ago and he’s still only clocked 3040 hours.

Sure everyone ‘bangs on’ about how their ‘off grid’ system is the best, me, I’ll just say that mine suits me, if you’re not comfortable with all this technology then steer clear of it. There are much simpler and cheaper ways of living ‘off grid’ comfortably, having said that, my entire system would probably have cost less than a grid connection with transformer and a few poles.



  1. £8.00 am hour? That’s more than the minimum wage and the living wage!
    Lucky lad!

    Comment by Sue — March 21, 2015 @ 10:39 pm

  2. Our old house has oak beams as lintels after 100 plus years still going strong. Only downside they bow slightly which made it a bit sporting when I came to change the windows a few years back!! However they will see me so obp the next time around. Looking good Paul.

    Comment by Andrew — March 22, 2015 @ 3:43 pm

    • I can imagine that being ‘interesting’, what did you do?

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 23, 2015 @ 6:11 am

      • A fair bit of swearing and a lot of faffing with an angle grinder. Sometimes easier to cut a bit off the granite sills rather than the oak. Of course being French all windows open in wards so are mounted from the inside. After trial mounting and demounting a few times the humour tends to go!
        Love all the light coming into the new house.

        Comment by Andrew — March 23, 2015 @ 8:18 am

      • What is it with UK windows opening ‘oot the way’ and European ones ‘in the way’??? Mine open inwards, much easier to clean and stops you piling 5h1te on the window ledges.

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 23, 2015 @ 3:26 pm

  3. 8 Quid an hour?????? Thats more than I earn gross in my full time job!!

    Comment by Lloyd — March 22, 2015 @ 5:52 pm

    • The boy’s well worth it, bit of a perfectionist, you should see his wood stacks.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 23, 2015 @ 6:10 am

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