500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

Rain Lights – wet days converted into light.


So, the issue of micro generation has been at the back of my mind for some time. The standard arguments about it are that if you are going to have a home generator of some description –  solar cells (ridiculously expensive at present), wind turbine or water turbine, you end up with a lot of maintenance and a payback time which is uneconomic (ie the amount of embedded energy needed to create the system will take too long to be made up by the equipment during it’s lifetime).  Dedicated enthusiasts and those who have serious amounts of money to invest can create their own personal electricity supply.

The big advantage of micro generation is that electricity loses power over distance because of resistance, so creating the electricity close to where it is to  be used is important. Also – it grants a measure of independence from centralised systems. With this in mind I’ve been thinking about building a mill wheel utilising the water which should be coming down the stream into the pond. This is going to be a big undertaking and quite frankly, beyond my own capability so I’ll need help. There is embeded energy in anything moving downwards because of gravity, if we could capture the energy of falling rain, for example.

To this end I had researched dynamo generators to be placed within rain water down pipes in domestic homes. The amount of power generated can be calculated using available data on average rainfall. There is nothing on the market at the moment – with electric generators being too expensive. There would be a natural coupling between times when we experience rain the need for heat and light (in all situations where the temperature is above freezing!) – if only it was possible to take the wasted energy of gravity on rainwater and convert it into something useful…

This year I put up Christmas lights with more though than previous years. There are people who decorate their houses so extremely that they end up with a massive electricity bill. This is clearly a waste, but to say so too loudly would be rather Bah Humbug about Christmas. Wouldn’t it be nice to have decorative lights which didn’t waste energy, and provided cheer on dark winter evenings? LED fairy lights don’t need much energy – which is why there’s that big black box with the plug – to convert the high currents of your household electricity down low enough for these bulbs. I had been thinking of hooking up lights like these to my bike to create something truly spectacular (alongside my Pedalite flashing pedals & magnet powered front and rear lights) but wasn’t sure how safe this would make me in the eyes of startled motorists.

Today, I was thinking about the mill wheel, and drawing designs for a wheel to go on the north wall of the house, simply capturing water from the roof guttering and carrying it towards to ground. I would love to create something beautiful and useful for the back wall as there is a large space with no windows which is permanently in the shade. It would need to be aesthetic as well as functional, and built of something light and durable, with as many reused/recycled components as possible. Of course – as the scale increases, so does the energy capture capability as well as the complexity… but how nice it would be to convert that freely available energy into useful heat or light on a gloomy day. Would it need to be one large wheel? Or would several small wheels be a more efficient way of capturing energy? What do we have available in the way of light, strong wheels? Old broken bicycles. Of which we have, by a fluke, more than one (I cannot throw things away), some even with dynamos. As I’ve though so many times before… I wish I’d studied engineering.

What I have learned from previous projects is that it’s important that I can take the first steps using only my own ability, so my first experiment will be with an old bicycle wheel, some guttering and my non-friction bycicle dynamo generator (from http://www.freelights.co.uk ).  Wish me luck!

One Comment to

“Rain Lights – wet days converted into light.”

  1. On April 12th, 2010 at 11:03 am 500 Year Vision » Blog Archive » The Nový Mlýn Sustainable Housekeeping Manual Says:

    […] = one person will have to do all jobs nobody else thinks about. What I want to be doing is this and in fact end up […]

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