Few people will choose renewable energy for ecological reasons alone. There are, however, millions who will spend money for stylish fast cars, big houses with lots of conveniences, and an enviable life style. The best way to bring about a renewable energy revolution is to think luxury, not sacrifice. If we really want to spread RE, then we must SPEND MONEY and NOT sacrifice amenities. I am not proposing waste, just not doing without. Remember the things which are not necessary, the things that are fun. If you want to bring in converts, make your renewable energy life style better, don't just get by.
If the sun is shining or the wind blowing and your batteries are fully charged, I maintain that YOU are wasting energy because you are not using it. So I purpose using all that wasted energy to have some fun. Race your electric car. Light up the outside of your house. Pump water through your fountain. Impress your friends with the luxury and sanity of renewable energy. Have some fun, you deserve it.
Author: Dan Freeman, 3008 W. Lupine, Phoenix, AZ 85029 • 602-993-8503
Above: Stuart Higgs' hydroelectric turbine generates power for two all-electric homes. On the left is the powerhouse holding the 30,000 watt alternator. To the right, overflow water spills from the fish guard. The day this photo was taken the turbine was producing 12 kw. (288 kwh/day) while cycling 770 pounds of water per second. Photo by Richard Perez
When Stuart Higgs visited Hoover Dam at age nine, he dreamed he would someday make his own electricity from flowing water. Now fifty years later, Stuart and his family operate the biggest home power system I have ever seen. Two families, both with all-electric homes, are supplied by Stuart's hydroelectric turbine. With a daily output of up to 720 kilowatt-hours, Stuart's hydro could power ten average American households, or over fifty energy-efficient households. And it cost about the same as an automobile, plus years of study, research, and just plain hard work by Stuart.
Late one evening, Bob-O called to tell us that the winner of an international hydro competition lived not thirty miles from us. The Yreka, California newspaper carried a story about a local man, Stuart Higgs, who had just placed first in an international competition to design and build the
most effective hydro turbine runner. This competition, at the International Water Power Conference '91 in Colorado this summer, featured entrants from many nations and all large hydro players. A man in our back yard skunked all the big time operators and took home first place with his $12 home-made hydro runner.
Above: Stuart Higgs' home viewed from the powerhouse. The Shasta River is spanned by a suspension bridge.
As you can imagine, we were very interested in meeting Stuart. Since the newspaper didn't give any access data, we tried HP's Subs database. Sure enough, Stuart was a subscriber. Armed with his address, we quickly got his phone number from information. We called and set up an interview. Here's what we found out.
The Higgs' Homestead
To the north of Yreka, California, the Shasta River flows from the 14,000 foot bulk of Mt. Shasta into the Klamath River and then into the Pacific Ocean. Along the river's way to the ocean, Stuart borrows some of its water for about a quarter mile and then returns it. Stuart's site is about seven miles from downtown Yreka, and three miles from the nearest commercial electric lines.
Stuart has been a hydromaniac since his visit to Hoover Dam. He chose the site of his present home with hydro power in mind. Years of work finally became a hydro system on Christmas Eve 1989. Stuart's wife returned home to find their homestead brilliantly lit from top to bottom with Christmas lights. Stuart had switched the hydro on for the first time and everything worked!
I am not going to dwell on the specifics of the appliances powered by Stuart's system. This data is meaningless and the list of appliances would fill pages. When a renewable source produces as much power as Stuart's hydro, there is no point in counting kilowatts.
Stuart powers up two all-electric homes. Everything is run on electricity. Everything. Included are appliances we do not normally associate with renewable energy systems- big time electric power slurpers such as: electric clothes dryers (two of them at 5.5 kw. each), electric space heating via many baseboard heaters, electric hot water heaters, air conditioning, electric cookstoves, multiple refrigerators and freezers, dishwasher, trash compactor, and myriad high-powered shop tools (like a 3 hp. air compressor). All this and more are powered by Stuart's hydro. I noticed a wood heater in the living room and asked Stuart about it. He said they installed it as a back up heat source and have never used it.
In terms of electric appliances, the Higgs Homestead has just about everything you could imagine. When you own the power company, why not?
Stuart's Hydro Site
Stuart uses 1,200 feet of ditch to deliver water to his turbine. The head (or vertical distance that the water falls) in the system is 17 feet. The turbine cycles between 10 and 30 cubic feet of water per second (between 5,000 and 15,000 gallons per minute), depending on the water level in the river. On the dry August day we visited, the turbine was cycling about 12 cubic feet per second (5,400 gallons per minute) and was producing about 12 kw. of power.
Stuart made sure of the water rights on his homestead before he moved. His homestead holds water rights for 50 cubic feet per second. He tore down the old wooden flume that delivered water to the site, and replaced it with a large ditch. This ditch required both blasting and heavy equipment to construct. Stuart did the work himself with his D6 Cat, a crane, and a backhoe.
The Fish Screen
The ditch delivers the water to the hydro through a fish screen. This fish screen is a marvel of design and function. A large area
Above: This electric-motorized fish screen keeps migratory fish and debris from entering the turbine.
(about 6 feet by 20 feet), fine mesh, stainless steel screen prevents fish from entering the hydro. The screen is continually wiped by long brushes to keep debris from clogging it. Everything is automated and powered by electricity (what else?).
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