2004 - Volume #28, Issue #5, Page #40[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
He Built His Own On-Farm Power Generating Plant
Gunderman says the first 18 years were spent thinking about how it could be built and spinning his wheels trying to convince his local utility company that a generator at his farm would be in their best interests. The utility had been buying power from the grid, under the assumption it was less expensive than owning and operating a generating plant.
Because he had what he considered an ideal location for a small hydroelectric plant, Gunderman refused to let the idea die. And when electricity demand outran supply on the West Coast three years ago, the utility finally saw the wisdom in having a local power source.
Once the utility agreed to allow a hydro-electric plant on Crown Hill Farm into the power grid, it took Gunderman just two years to get it built and into operation. "It was a feat to get licensed as there were 15 state and federal agencies that overlook this type of project," he notes. "There were many hurdles along the way from several of the agencies involved."
They first hired a hydrologist to determine that there would be adequate water to operate a generator.
The farm had two lakes, one of which provided water for irrigation. After determining where the plant should be located, they decided the second smaller lake could be used to collect water. They built a new third reservoir to collect more water and regulate its flow to the plant.
The project required considerable earthwork, installing additional small collection ponds and more than a mile of waterways to channel both artesian and runoff water into the new reservoir. Most of the earthwork was done by Gunderman and a friend who works in the excavation business.
Gunderman chose a system that can use water from one lake or the other, or from both at once. He installed two Pelton wheel turbines û one larger and one smaller û synchronized by a belt drive, so they can operate in unison to turn the generator using available water. At the low end, the generator puts out 500 Watts with a flow rate of 65 gallons per minute. At the high end, a flow rate of 1,850 gallons per minute will turn out 30 kilowatts per hour. The system can produce an estimated 96,000 kW hours per year, or about enough for eight typical households.
"We have not come close to that as yet, since we are in a three year dry spell, with lower than normal rainfall," he says. "Actual output the first season was approximately 30,000 kW hours."
State law and his agreement with the utility prevent him from putting more than 25 kW into the grid at any time. In reality, they hope to produce all the electricity Crown Hill Farm can use, plus about 25 percent more, which is what will actually be sold to the utility.
The plant incorporates the latest technology in controls and monitors and everything about the entire project was designed to protect the environment and wildlife, including fish in the creek that receives the tailwater from the turbines. Because Gunderman was able to do some of the design and construction work himself, his total out of pocket costs for the project were under $110,000. He worked with Canyon Hydro to finalize his design (Canyon Hydro, Deming, Wash.; www.canyonindustries inc.com; ph 360 592-5552).
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Juliette & Lucien Gunderman, Crown Hill Farm, 18155 SW Baker Creek Rd., McMinnville, Oregon 97128 (ph 503-472-5496; email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
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