Normal service will be resumed shortly

by Gareth on September 12, 2013

Something of a global warming (coverage) hiatus has hit Hot Topic in the last couple of days, courtesy of the rather dramatic gale that hit my part of New Zealand on Tuesday evening. We are all well, and suffered no damage to our house — but there’s a hell of a lot of tidying up to do to damaged trees and fences, and we are still without power and mobile phone coverage. With luck we’ll get reconnected in the next day or so. Normal bloggage will resume as soon as I finish chainsawing fallen branches and clearing debris.

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

noelfuller September 12, 2013 at 11:56 am

I have been wondering how the oaks and truffles got on.

Gareth September 12, 2013 at 1:28 pm

The deciduous trees are not in leaf, so escaped more or less scot free (apart from an apple that had a large part of a gum descend on it). Truffles are earth dwellers, so remain insouciant.

Got the mobile phone back now, but we’re probably somewhere near the bottom of Mainpower’s list for a power connection, being as most of Oxford was off this morning, and we only managed to blow a transformer fuse (my best guess for why everyone else in the valley has power and we don’t).

Gareth September 13, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Latest news, such as it is, is that we are not expecting our power to be reconnected for another 2 – 3 days. Beginning to wish I’d pressed the case for investing in rooftop solar panels a little harder…

noelfuller September 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I expect mine to be installed monday week but it is not a hybrid system that will run off line as well but I’m told that the modular system can be expanded to do so.

Because of the solar heater panel fitting the 5kw of panels on the roof is not straightforward. Removing or moving the stove vent looks like a requirement.

Thomas September 14, 2013 at 8:38 am

This trial in Auckland by Vector is really interresting:

It is a hybrid system with Lithium batteries. I am not sure though, if this system allows insular power production when the grid is not connected.
But there are certainly hybrid controllers out there that will work.
What is significant is the fact that Vector as an electricity company is activly getting involved in putting these systems out there to reduce peak power demand production costs for them as in this case vector uses the batteries as a peak demand buffer.
Interesting also that they choose Lithium batteries. I suppose that LedAcid is not really working well in a general market due to maintenance requirements. Also Lithium batteries have arrived at lifetime cost equality with LedAcid due to their longer service life and much larger useful capacity (Useful part of the nominal capacity), which is around 50% for deep cycle LedAcids when attempting to maximize battery longevity.

noelfuller September 15, 2013 at 7:12 am

If one also has an electric car – my intended car is still months away – then if the hardware will permit, the cheapest way to a hybrid system or to an emergency backup, is to be able to hitch the car to the house system in house supply mode. After all, the car has its own builtin charge controller for the charge mode so that does not have to be part of the house installation.

Thomas September 15, 2013 at 11:21 am

Yes, if you are frugal on the house demands and the power cut is short… otherwise you will be stuck at the house with no power and no transport either in the end… ;-)

I dare not say it, but for the once in a blue moon several day long power grid cut, a generator backup is still an option and probably at around $700 for a 2kW portable one a lot less resource hungry to build, maintain and replace than a descend size house battery would be, that sits there for many years waiting for the occasion.
That’s for grid connected people.

If you are off-grid completely, then you have the battery anyway and don’t worry about the power cut elsewhere.

As a society, the maximum overall gain made from solar is through gird connected feed-in systems that offset power production from dirty sources with every kWh produced at the panels and without the need to install costly batteries.

noelfuller September 15, 2013 at 1:58 pm

The deisel should still require a mains cutout as they have been saying recently – or turn off the mains. It is quite a reasonable solution easily obtained.

However, a 5 kw system will quickly enough recharge the car battery and leave a bit over to run the house. It is rare that there is significant cloud cover for more than three days and even rarer that a grid outage will last that long.

I have an offgrid low power 12 v system to supply emergency LED lighting and drive the tank water pump and that can last a long time. For 7 months in a year I can turn off the water heating altogether as the solar heater delivers more than needed any reasonably sunny day. What is left is the computer, radio, fridge, heat pump, TV and stereo system, all being only intermitently required.

So in my case it is not a big ask to hook up the electric car on rare occasions. I certainly do not need the car for trips to the supermarket, bank, fruit and veges (garden too) and the odd other trip I do. Were I living close to the CBD I would have almost no call for a all bus destinations are on routes that radiate from there. It is thus not a big ask to hook up the car to be able to keep up with “Hot Topic” :)

What I would like to do is drive the ev from North Cape to Bluff (and back), just for the fun or pain of it. After all an electric car has been driven from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Ushuaia, Tiera del Fuego. I just need a list of people prepared to supply some power along the way.

Thomas September 15, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Yes, you are right, if your house system has 5KW you are amply supplied with daily solar and indeed the cars battery would be a good option. It should not be too difficult to engineer a solution for that.
And yes, at 5KW you should indeed be able to also have extra to recharge the car again in due course. And your house seems set up ideally to cope with that too. So great!

What car make and model are you aiming for? And your trip from North Cape to bluff is an excellent idea. I guess if you make it known in the press you will get offers along the way to offer plugging in and perhaps even a bed for the night. Perhaps a new sort of tourist accommodation class will sprout up: Instead of B&B’s there will be friendly B&P’s on the way (bed and plug ins!) ;-)

noelfuller September 15, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I’ve mentioned it before – it was going to be available last february but now it will be next year – the holdup? Certification is improving the machine no end but will it live up to the specs which are published in full elsewhere (stainless steel body for instance) but not on this site. It remains to be seen after Aussie/NZ certification on top of what is currently happening, whether or not the specs are sufficiently pleasing. Streanlining is not a feature here but it may be more useful and durable than the other vehicles at the same price.

Of course what I would like would be a Tesla S but that is beyond me quite apart from the fact that their factory can’t keep up with demand. So this car with standard battery, at less than a third the price of the big battery TeslaS, is my limit. For the big drive I would want the big battery option available with the DLEVM1005 but so far have not been able to get a price and unless a big dollop of money could be charmed out of someone I probably could not afford it.

Thomas September 15, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Yes, I now remember. It will be great to hear from you when you finally get your car and to see if this is for real. Its a very good price anyway, if it indeed holds its promise.

Btw, something odd is happening with the HT site regarding links I normally right click links and open them in another tab so I can carry on reading the original page.
Somehow, and only in HT as it seems, the right click brings up the context menu for selecting ‘open in new tab’ but before one can click that the link executes anyway and gets the page changed to the one linked too. Something for Gareth to have a play with.

noelfuller September 16, 2013 at 7:57 am

On engineering home-car linkage and also providing portable wind or solar charging for long leisurely journeys the 320 V DC car battery would have to have a no-load break-before-make switch and appropriate charge controller so the battery could be reconfigured into 5 parallel 48V DC modules. Already available charge controllers and inverters could then be applied.

What would be nice is if the manufacturer has already installed this arrangement or provided an easy way to do it as an optional extra. I have sent a question accordingly. I should have been seriously thinking about this before now but I assumed that manufacturers would have done just that. Tesla provides a PV charger option for instance and long distance EV travellers provide for charging options.

Have you done anything along these lines?

Right clicking a link in my browser does get another tag opened from a context menu with respect to Hot Topic.

Gareth September 16, 2013 at 10:20 am

Still powerless. I’m now told it could be midweek – or later – before we get our electrons back. Anyone got tips on sharpening chainsaw chains?

noelfuller September 16, 2013 at 11:02 am

So perhaps you have not been suffering the nervous tension of watching two now evenly matched boats and crews batttling for the America’s Cup?

Has the foregoing discussion been of interest to you.? The importer loved Thomas’s B&P idea but with warranty issues re battery access, suggested we hold off until the manufacturer gets back in answer to the technical questions raised..

Getting a working solution to using the EV battery during off-grid periods and also being able to recharge from wind or solar while traveling away from handy quick charge infrastructure would surely make selling points given the increases in extreme weather with associated grid outages.

Gareth September 16, 2013 at 11:56 am

It’s been a very interesting conversation, yes. I’m very taken with the solar PV + Li batteries pakage being promoted by Vector. Something similar would make sense as a back-up solution as well as a bill reducer (though I note Vector make no promises about that – their solution might be more expensive than doing something yourself with the same technology).

We’re not wired for a generator to be plugged in (well, not safely, anyway ;-) ), but a small ~3kw petrol unit is well under $1,000 these days. They’re in short supply in Canterbury at the moment…

noelfuller September 16, 2013 at 12:34 pm

I can imagine the shortage. Just switching off the mains should safely isolate a generator from the mains I would have thought.

noelfuller September 16, 2013 at 11:17 am

Re chain saws I’ve done it often enough on the job but am hardly an expert and that was some time ago as well. My current chain saw is not yet blunt.. Surely you have the requisite round file and a thick glove?

Gareth September 16, 2013 at 11:59 am

Somewhere, probably, but it’s not something I’ve done, let alone properly. On the other hand, I did invest in a tungsten chain a year ago, and after a fair bit of gum and pine it’s still cutting reasonably well. But there’s a lot of blue gum left to do.

noelfuller September 16, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Hmm a tungsten chain I’ve never had and I expect it would require professional sharpening – a bit much for the usual chain saw filie I’ve used. Presumable there is a saw doctor about with the appropriate machinery for a good job. I’ve had plenty of tungsten blades but never regretted getting them professionally sharpened. It’s when they meet 6 inch nails in old timber that they need replacing.

There are articles and videos on line on chainsaw sharpening. I can paste instructions if your mobile is not up to it and you have an ordinary standby chain to sharpen. I susoect bluegum is not the easiest of timbers. Here is a fairly substantial page

Thomas September 16, 2013 at 8:10 pm

On right clicking: I use Firefox on Windows. Right clicking in side HT on any link will execute the link. With exception to the Twitter feed, where its working normally. All other websites are working normally for me.

noelfuller September 16, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Whoops! I’ve just checked my sums – a fifth part of 320 volts is 64 volts which is beyond the input range of most easily available chargers and inverters. so not as simple as i thought.

Thomas September 16, 2013 at 8:06 pm

On re-configuring your serial battery pack to parallel… I would stay away from meddling with this. Keeping a well balanced LiFePo pack going long term requires a well thought out battery management system and that will be all configured for the serial set up of the car.
But, once you are into high voltage DC territory, converting up and down with DC/DC converters is not a huge issue theoretically. High efficiency digital switching converters are available. Not all voltage combinations will be available though from stock products. But I would recommend to not meddle with the carefully packaged and configured pack of your car at all, and interface from the outside to it at its pack voltage for external users. External charging could be done via the usual 240V AC interface from anywhere.
In fact, I would design the system with a small house battery in the home and an AC 240V link that can either go into the house from the car or the other way around. You would then look at pretty much stock standard gear.

noelfuller September 17, 2013 at 7:43 am

Good advice I have to acknowledge.

It comes down to this: I can’t have both though that may become the norm. I have not enough savings to pay for a hybrid system as normally conceived with a house battery, and also have an electric vehicle – which could be considered an optional extra. I thought there could be a chance if the car could be part of the system on an emergency basis.

With the car the question is: Has, or will the manufacturer provide for a power takeoff? If not then I will have to settle for what I’ve got, having already paid for the imported components of a 5kw grid-tie system before the Vector scheme appeared on the scene. Have they yet produced a public analysis of how their system is performing?

Thomas September 17, 2013 at 8:28 pm

It should not be difficult. You can get high input voltage DC to AC inverters. This is one of the manufactures, there are many others:
Many of these sense the input voltage and in fact run with wide range of DC input voltages. All you need to do is really to have a safe way to plug your inverter into the cars high voltage battery. For safety of your batteries your battery management system in the car should be able to turn the power to the external inverter off, when an unsafe condition of any cell is detected to prevent over-discharge.
Today’s grid tie DC to AC inverters all handle high DC input voltages. 480V is a common one for 10 x 48V panels in series.
The next generation of in-car chargers might actually offer the reverse function as the idea has been on the drawing board for a long time now.

noelfuller September 18, 2013 at 12:20 pm

That reverse function included is what is wanted. The DLEVM1005 and siblings are being manufactured with the object of getting the price point as low as possible so no frills yet but when the car is in the country we shall see. Meanwhile I will have a grid-tie system to earn and save with.

Because of my white roof the installers may be grateful if there is cloud cover on monday to mute the glare quite apart from keeping voltages in check. I’m interested to see how they cope. Meanwhile I’ve got a little tree trimming to do just to join the crowd..

Thomas September 18, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Watch out – even with a full moon – for the high DC voltage your system will supply. And open DC line at a 10 panel serial system at 48V a panel will produce 480V even in moonshine, but of cause very little current. But at 480V even that little current is enough to kill…. a firefighter was electrocuted tending to a solar roof fire at night, with the high beam torch of the fire truck causing enough voltage in the roof in Germany….

noelfuller September 20, 2013 at 7:58 am

I’ll be asking about cleaning panels and am heating up the war on roof pigeons. I have an assortment of lengths of aged plastic hose to fling over the roof with the wind so they do not wind up in the gutters.

With respect to isolating panels for cleaning or other maintenance including fire risk check out this PDF

Gareth September 17, 2013 at 4:54 pm

We have power. And a huge backlog to deal with, on top of the other logs. Back soonish. Should be a Climate Show on its way too…

bill September 18, 2013 at 9:21 pm

I’m going to post a link to a video discussed in one of the Hot Tweets because I think everyone should see it.

Windbaggers take note! And, in the golden words of The Castle; ‘suffer in yer jocks!’

I think the actual video is better than The Conversation piece, because , while it’s a catchy line, the cynical suggestion of ‘money cures the syndrome’ is not actually borne out by the video at all – sure, the money helps, but community good will is what has actually prevented Waubra syndrome from taking hold in the actual Waubra community.

bill September 19, 2013 at 11:08 am
Rob Taylor September 20, 2013 at 10:13 am

Idiot Abbott sacked Tim Flannery yesterday and disestablished the Australian Climate Commission.

Who could have seen that coming?

Flannery’s response:

We’ve got the ball and every prick on the other team is trying to trip us up and kick us in the knackers. We’ve got to keep going and get the ball across the line.

Thomas September 20, 2013 at 11:06 am

Killing of the messengers…. an age old tactic of the deluded, the dishonest and the intellectually (and probably otherwise…) corrupt!

bill September 20, 2013 at 12:53 pm

We don’t have a Science Minister.

The upside is that we don’t have Sophie Mirabella as Science Minister; she was ditched – and I use the word advisedly – by a sane person!

So, we have one female Cabinet member, Abbott himself is handling Women’s and Indigenous Affairs (relax, he has an actual woman ‘assisting’ for the former, and, no, since you ask, it turns out you can’t extend the same logic to the latter), and all over the country fat, greedy white blokes are rubbing their hands in anticipation, while the IPA thinks it’s going to be Christmas for 3 solid years…

In short, the Festival of Stupid is in full swing! It’s a new morning in Australia – 1965 again…

Thomas September 20, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Menckens eloquent description seems to highlight the tragedy of the matter….

“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

And point the finger, like it or not, where it needs pointing too…
Work to be done…

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