Posted by: DHE Rwanda | August 24, 2011

The Banda Chronicles, Vol. 4: In Which Mike Explains the Current State of Affairs

No photos yet, but the full turbine set up has been mounted in the turbine house at Nyiragasigo (the Ben Koons turbine site) and spins when you spray water on it. That may not sound like much, but muzungus (all 5 of us) were careening through the streets with tears streaming down our faces.

We’ve had to chip out a big hole in the wall of the turbine house to align the penstock (pipe going down the hill to the turbine) exactly forty-five degrees with the nozzle that shoots the high velocity jet of water on the turbine. Also in one phase of testing a t-shirt was used to plug the top of the penstock so we could work in the turbine house sans water spraying everywhere, the t-shirt was sucked down through the pipe, got stuck near the nozzle, and exploded a PVC elbow due to water hammer (high pressure water). No one was hurt and sopping wet laughs were shared by all.

Electrically, we’ve been struggling with trying to fix the Morningstar Tristar solar charge controllers that the 2008 team put in. The solar charge controllers are a hardy and ingenious device that work great for hydro, but there’s three “voltage suppressors” that keep blowing up inside and its anyone’s guess (including Morningstar) as to why. With a well thought out system, rigorous testing, and desperate international phone calls made to our advisors we hope to understand the issue and start charging batteries for people soon.

Meanwhile we’re continuing the micro-grid survey and feasibility study, and there are those of us who see this as a fantastic and sustainable piece of engineering that could really set Banda up for meaningful development in the coming years. The town just won’t be able to meet its goals of building a maternity ward, library/computer lab, and eco-lodge without it. The village is extremely excited by the idea of wires bringing electricity to their shops and homes, and are insistent that they can pay for it and provide the manual labor. Occasionally Bandans remind us that the 2008 team’s hydro sites brought Banda out of the stone age – it’s not hard to imagine affordable, accessible, and plentiful energy bringing Banda right up to the new millennium.

Hydraulically yours,

Mike

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