Life on the Fanny Farm is moving apace, thanks largely to ‘the Viking’, my big and strong Danish wwoofer, ably assisted by his French girlfriend….. the timing of these guys’ arrival could not have been better, especially if the sawmill arrives soon, followed by the batteries and MPPT I have bought off eBay.
The exterior of the power station is now finished; all the PV modules are up and running, and I have finally put my whirlybird in the roof. I’ve opted for a polycarbonate one that allows light into the end of the container opposite the doors, and the amount of extra light exceeds all my expectations. Its location will also help vent the hydrogen gas that the batteries will offgas, and I know already this will work because the fuel smell from the chainsaws I store there has already disappeared. And what a relief too, it was a real stink in there on warm days!
I had a wake up call with my Victron inverter…… my bad, I didn’t do my research properly, but as it is called an inverter/charger, I assumed that the output from the PVs could be simply hooked up to the inverter to charge the battery bank. However, this is not the case, because it charges batteries from the grid only! I therefore now needed a Maximum Power Point Tracker (MPPT), units often built into inverters these days, just not this one. As the seller of the inverter told me, the beauty of doing it this way is that you get a state of the art inverter made by a company specialising in inverters, and a state of the art MPPT made by a company that does nothing else too.
In case you’re wondering what a MPPT does, here is a quick explanation…… PV modules nowadays produce voltages that are incompatible with battery voltages. My PVs, for instance, produce 38V Open Circuit, much too high for 12/24V, but not enough for 48V (our nominal voltage). At the very least, I would have to connect two together (76V) which would be too high for a 48V system, but almost doable with Nickel Iron batteries, though they would be ‘boiling’ most of the time, and I would rather not do that.
Before MPPTs were invented (late 1990’s), charge controllers would reduce this voltage to something that would not destroy your batteries, but in the process some significant amount of power was lost, causing unwanted inefficiencies to creep in. As it turns out, the Midnite Classic I have bought operates at 150V, the very top of the open circuit range of four of my panels connected in series (two strings), and will process it down to suitable voltage for the Nickel Iron batteries (for which the MPPT can be programmed…), at full power. And they look so cool, pity no one will see it in the container!
Because, I presume, the previous owners never built somewhere to live here, the property was never zoned properly. Unlike them, I have a plan, and I have started zoning the Fanny Farm, beginning with the orchard. As I don’t believe anyone, me included, will be able to cut the grass that grows there with fossil fuels in the future, I’m planning to use birds to eat it down for me. Matt tells me an orchard needs one bird per tree to do this; I find this extraordinary to be honest, because with about a thousand trees planted in the orchard, that’s an awful lot of birds to deal with!
I was banking on more like 200, and maybe as many as 400, diversifying with chooks, Muscovy ducks, and geese, all grass eating animals. Will they do the job? I don’t know either…… but the future has no other alternative, so I’m rolling with it.
Since the geese escaped a month ago, it was clear that I jumped into this too soon, needing a decent bird proof fence around the orchard. Lots and lots of wing clipping will also be the order of the day, which is why the idea of managing 1,000 birds is mind boggling…..
A local business (the one that sold me gates for peanuts at closing time at the small farm
expo) was offering fencing material the other day for 20% off, so I bought 300m of chicken wire and 100 star pickets. Matt, who is pulling out literally thousands of treated pine poles out of his massive orchard offered me ‘as many as I want’ (the payoff being I will have to assist him over winter in doing so) and Simon and I took the ute over and filled it up with poles…….
The fencing here needs a lot of attention, but the basics are there for the job to be doable. I’m just not used to fencing on this scale, the ‘drawback’ of having a large farm. Thank goodness for wwoofers!
Then, out of the blue, I mentioned to the Viking that I would really like to relocate the steel power pole that sits atop our dam, but that it might be too hard to do. That was just too much for him, “let’s have a crack at it” said he!
Only trouble is, the bottom of the pole, we discovered, is encased in maybe 300kg of concrete, and even pulling it with the ute, which Annéa yelled out was bending the pole, proved too much…. Matt has now offered to pull it out with his excavator after the apple season is over. Ah, men and their toys…..!
Never a dull moment around here, let me tell you……