Friday, April 22, 2011

Power Woes

The day after we got the good news about the solar power system, we got some frustrating news about the generator.  It seems that the parts to service the generator just aren't available.  To have them made will run us just shy of $5,000, before the labor to then service the generator with the new parts.

That put a damper on my day.

Woods folks are never wont to be bummed out for long, though, and we always have a backup plan floating in our minds somewhere.  I've started looking into the possibility of purchasing one of the newer generators on the market, which would run us approximately the same price as the parts for the old generator.  Since we're installing the solar/battery system and will no longer need the generator for 6-8 hours a day, this is the perfect time to switch to a generator that runs cleaner and more quietly and also produces cleaner power.

I'm looking into the Kohler line of generators, but if anyone out there knows of another, please tell me.  We only have a few days to make a big, big decision.  The current diesel generator produces 13.5kW of power; Kohler's line runs anywhere from 8.5kW up to 30kW.  They're sold as backup generators, meaning they switch on if the power goes out, but I've also seen them listed on several solar power sites as good off-grid options.  My big question will be whether we can turn it on and off without using the automatic switch, since we use less power than a typical residence and neither need nor want it supplied continuously every time the power goes out.

The other question will be the warranty and longevity of the system.  The reviews are good; Kohler is apparently easy to work with, but they also only cover the systems in a backup situation, not off-grid.  Their 12kW generator costs approximately $3,500; if it lasts for 10 years, it's more than paid for itself, just based on the price of parts for the Lister engine we currently use.

There are other benefits to purchasing a new generator, as well.  They're very quiet; the Kohler 12RES is rated at 65dB at 7m, or just louder than a vacuum cleaner.  Can you imagine??  The Kohler also runs on propane, rather than diesel.  Propane burns cleaner and doesn't have the same long-term storage issues that diesel does, and it would make us a one-fuel camp.

Beyond that, though, I'm not an electrical engineer, and it takes me a while to run through all of the calculations regarding voltage, amperage, charging, and instantaneous power that flood the generator discussions on the solar forums I've found online.  My guess is that any modern generator will provide as good, if not better, charging power than the old Lister, so it really comes back down to longevity.

What a day.

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