For many, Aftertime preparations are relegated to securing a safe location, gathering vital essentials and do not include provisions for generating electrical power. While this isn't imperative for survival, it will be required for optimum vegetable cultivation, radio communication, among other quality of life improvements. Although many are hoping to be deemed worthy of receiving a perpetual power pack, there's no telling when or even IF this can be expected.
Some may be able to rely on their ability to generate power from salvaging Aftertime wreckage, but most of us cannot. This discussion is offered for those intending to generate power in the Aftertime and wanting to learn more. Anyone currently living off-grid or with expertise generating and storing power is encouraged to share their ideas on reliable alternatives in an Aftertime environment.
There's much to be said regarding human powered generators in the context of an Aftertime scenario. Most commercially available human-powered generators involve either a stationary bicycle that utilizes legs for pedaling or a hand crank mechanism that utilizes the upper body. Since a human is only capable of producing relatively low RPMs, power output is likewise limited. And while pedaling a stationary bike for an hour currently may not be overly taxing, when your day is comprised of chopping wood, carrying water, and other physically exhausting activities - and you're borderline malnourished, this may not be a realistic option. Before exploring other alternatives for generating power, it's important to clarify some common misconceptions:
Misconception 1: "I can salvage an alternator from a car or truck and generate power, right?"
Not easily. Most vehicle alternators start producing power at RPMs far greater than humans can achieve without substantial mechanical gearing to increase the alternator speed. While vehicle alternators can be modifed to generate power at lower RPMs, this involves replacing the existing stator windings with windings that have more turns of smaller gauge wire, which is no small feat.
Using a vehicle alternator to harness wind power is also problematic. A car alternator is designed to be lightweight and operate at very high RPM. Since it won't produce useable power below 1000 RPM, ordinary wind turbine blades mounted on the shaft will spin relatively slowly and not produce useable power. While you can attempt to compensate for this speed mismatch by introducing gearing, rewinding the stator coils, or even using shorter blades, you'll find these laborious efforts only result in a wind generator that is clumsy, inefficient, and produces little power.
Also, you have to remove and bypass the internal voltage regulator if your battery is not right next to the alternator. So unless you have the battery mounted on top the tower, the voltage at the alternator will be higher than the battery voltage due to resistance in the wiring and the regulator will start to limit the voltage output before the battery begins charging properly. All in all, trying to use a vehicle alternator is a bad idea.
Misconception 2: "I can hook up any Permanent Magnet Generator (PMG) to a stationary bike and generate sufficient power to charge my battery bank, right?"
Not necessarily. Even PMGs advertised as "Low RPM" that reportedly generate voltage and current at any RPM need to be evaluated based on your ability to turn the generator fast enough to charge your batteries. If you're trying to charge a 12V battery and you can't pedal fast enough to generate more than 12V, your battery will die just slightly ahead of you.
Misconception 3: "I can use car batteries in my battery bank, right?"
Bad idea. Most batteries that start engines (starter batteries) are designed to be drained only slightly (2 to 5%) during ignition, after which they're recharged by the vehicle's alternator. This type of battery fails to hold a charge when repeatedly drained and recharged (deep cycled). A used automotive battery can fail after only a few deep cycles, while a new deep cycle battery can last for over 20 years. While it would be recommended to obtain deep cycle batteries now, deep cycle batteries could be acquired in the Aftertime by salvaging those found in boat wreckage (marine batteries), as well as ones residing in forklifts, golf carts and floor sweepers (traction batteries).
Misconception 4: "I can erect a wind generator anywhere and it will generate power as long there's wind, right?"
A wind generator needs to be positioned in a carefully chosen location that satisifies stringent criteria:
a. Dependable Wind. Any location will have periods when there's no wind, but you want to choose a site where there is some wind most of the time.
b. Sufficient Wind. Even though the blades may be turning, most wind generators won't charge batteries in winds less than 7 mph. Power output increases almost linearly in winds between 10 mph and 20 mph, after which power output levels off and actually decreases in wind speeds over 35 mph as overspeed controls come into play.
c. Excessive Wind. While not enough wind is a problem, too much of it is a bad thing, too. In wind speeds greater than 35 mph, most wind generators have built-in overspeed controls that slow blade rotation to prevent damage. This reduces power output and increases wear and tear. While some wind generators cannot survive wind speeds above 50 mph, others can endure wind speeds up to 120 mph.
d. Good Wind. For optimum performance, a wind generator should be located far away and well above the nearest obstacle that could affect the quality of wind by introducing turbulence. Some say a wind generator should be located at least 300 feet away and 30 feet above the nearest obstacle, while others suggest a horizontal distance of 200 feet and vertical height of 20 feet is satisfactory. It all depends on the location. An 80-foot tower is not unheard of.
WHERE TO BEGIN
So what's the best means of generating power in the Aftertime? This depends on many factors including your geographic location, how much power you envision your group requiring, what your group's capabilities are and what your available resources are for obtaining energy system components.
If you wish to have electrical power in the Aftertime, its essential that your survival group contain at least one person with sufficient knowledge to be capable of either salvaging the necessary parts in the Aftertime or building the group's renewable energy system from commercially available components right now. Personally, I believe this also includes the ability to build a generator from raw materials since there's no assurance power generating devices, despite how carefully protected, will survive the Pole Shift.
For those interested in learning how to build wind generators from raw materials, I highly recommend Hugh Piggott's, A Wind Turbine Recipe Book. This book is also available for download. I endorse this book because I was successful building a wind generator using it's instructions. The book includes plans for building 4', 6', 8', 10', 12' and 14' rotor diameter wind generators and is available in English or metric units.
So if your intention is to generate power in the Aftertime, how do you intend to accomplish it?
We need to start talking about this now. After the 7 of 10 hits, it might be too late.
Yes, but my understanding is that AGM batteries cannot last 30 years (maybe 10 years, at most), so I need a plan for that. Storing empty lead acid batteries is the only proven concept that I know of. You can't empty and store an AGM battery indefinitely. And it seems that manufacturing will shut down now, when New Madrid events hit, and buying any type of new deep cycle batteries will likely be impossible. They will likely become completely unavailable, as people scramble and grab what they can. However, we're still roughly 4-5 years from Pole Shift. If I buy AGM batteries now, they may last only 5 years into the gloom of the Aftertime. I'm hoping to run grow lights and some other things. The gloom will last until 15 - 25 years (20 - 30 years from now). Thus, it seems like a good idea to have a supply of batteries which will last for 30 years. Lithium batteries may last 20 years, but this is largely unproven. They will probably also be unavailable, shortly. Purchased now, they may take us 15 years into the Aftertime. A good distance, yes, if they prove to last that long, but not the full distance. Thus, I come back to what can be stored indefinitely. Using up lead-acid batteries consecutively seems to be the only foolproof idea. They don't last as long, but can be stored indefinitely if they are are emptied and rinsed out. The acid, if stored properly, will apparently also store indefinitely.
The problem with lead-acid batteries is that they have high self-discharge rate, so it's good to keep them dry when storing them for a longer period. Quality AGM and gel batteries, if kept under cool conditions (up to 20C), have low self-discharge rate, so they can be recharged only once per year which should not be a problem. And they usually have superior cycle characteristics then flooded batteries.
Howard Boldt said:
Nancy, in the Troubled Times Survival Booklet, talks about draining the acid from deep cycle lead-acid batteries, rinsing them out with distilled water, and then storing both acid and empty batteries for indefinite periods of time, as a means of having an ongoing supply of batteries in the Aftertime. If batteries in use go bad after some years, you add acid to the empty spare batteries and away you go. New batteries. This seems like an excellent idea for an era where manufacturing of batteries (or anything), as we know it, will no longer exist.
However, batteries which have removable caps to access the acid have become fewer and may be more expensive. Most less-expensive deep cycle batteries are filled with acid at the factory and sealed. Is there a way to drain the acid from these?
Other types look like they have tops which might come off with some prying, in order to access the acid. A little experimenting will determine this, but you have to buy the battery to try.
Good thinking, but if I understood well, the specified lifecycle for batteries is only when you are using them (discharging an charging), and it depends on the depth of discharge, temperature etc. If you recharge AGM and Gel batteries once or twice a year, they can last a hundred years. We have few for more than 10 years and using them occasionally, only during the summer for watering our garden, and they still have capacity like new ones. Also, there are some cons with flooded batteries like need for monthly equalization, toxic and explosive gases, sulfation of the plates. I am not saying you should not buy flooded batteries, but if you can't find them, there are better, albeit more expensive solutions. The greatest life cycle you can expect form OPZV tubular batteries but they are the most expensive and are 2V which can be a problem in some cases.
Carlos, can you message me? I want to ask you something apart from these topics. I don't want to disturb Nancy just to get your email address. If you accept my friend request, we can communicate here. You can also find me on Facebook.
Carlos Villa said:
I am currently 100% off grid and I'm willing to council anyone here who needs it. My batteries have a 30+ years lifespan when discharged fully on a daily basis and have upwards of 30 000 cycles compared to 500+ for lead acid. They can charge and discharge at a rate of 10c and yes I produce power on a cloudy day. Contact Nancy and ask her for my email. I am here to help.