Friday, March 31st, 2023

Electricity at OLT

Doug Bishop explaining OLT's Hydroelectic Plant Doug Bishop explaining OLT's Hydroelectic Plant Robin Rosenberg

Orient Land Trust maintains a micro-hydroelectric power generating system that has been in operation in its present form since about 2000. All of the waters on the Valley View property converge at a filtration Collection Box before entering a 9000 ft. long, 12" diameter pipeline that drops 540 ft. in elevation to a Power House near the Valley floor. This delivers a pressure of about 232 PSI to the (Pelton) water wheel inside the building, which in turn drives a three phase, 480 volt Alternator/Generator. This electrical power is increased in voltage for the trip back up the hill and then reduced to normal voltage before being distributed exclusively for the Valley View Village. The amount of electricity that can be generated is dependent on the amount of water that is flowing from the springs. As I write this, we are making about 50 Kilowatts, constantly, every second. Though there is little to be done to make more electricity, everyone has some effect on how it is used.

Because we are not connected to the greater power grid, all of the power that we generate must be used onsite. There is no way to store it or move it and if there is not a destination for every electron, the generator gets out of balance and will quickly shut down altogether. Because of this constraint, we have devised a "load" to use the surplus. This can be energized as power is available or alternatively dropped as that power is called for elsewhere on the property. The destination for surplus power is the heater for the water to the Apple Tree pools. This has allowed us to steadily make our own power for decades.

How does it work? The surplus electricity is directed to the "Governor," which is comprised of computerized controlled circuitry and a custom built stainless steel 120-gallon water tank that carries twenty 4.5-kilowatt heating elements and which has the capability of engaging each heating element as power becomes available and to disengage as that power is called for elsewhere. This electrical diversion system is very responsive and necessary for the hydroelectric plant to stay functional. The system readily demonstrates the laws of cause and effect. When a dryer, stove, water heater, electric baseboard heating unit in a cabin, or the heater in a motorhome is energized, the effect is the power that was going to make the Apple Tree pool water hot is consumed. An element in the Governor tank that was heating water a moment ago turns off to supply these other immediate demands. These heating elements are what create the hot water in the Apple Tree Pools.

You can make a difference! When appliances are left on and unattended in cabins, the Pavilion or mobile homes, the power that they are using is removed from the available supply that provides current to a heating element at the Governor Tank. Therein lies the answer to the recurring question, "Why are the Apple Tree pools not hot?" For example, when a guest turns the thermostat in their cabin on, this engages a backup (only for sub-zero nights really) electric baseboard heater. Turning on electric space heaters takes heat from the Apple Pools. If guests leave windows and/or doors open, these baseboard heaters will just stay on and that power will never be available to the Pools. Comfortable, geothermal in floor or warm water baseboard units provide primary heating for all of the accommodation Cabins, Sunset Rooms, and Oak House so using the Electric baseboard heater should not be necessary except during very cold episodes.

Orient Land Trust, besides being a destination for Hot Springs, provides an opportunity for all of us to learn how our human supporting technologies work and how we can create sustainable practices so they are used in a manner that best benefits all of us. Please pay attention to your electrical and heating demands and practice conservative use both here at Valley View and wherever else you may be.

Thank You!

Last modified on Monday, 03 April 2023 19:29

For the education, enjoyment, and well-being of current and future generations, Orient Land Trust: 
promotes a positive clothing-optional experience at all properties including Valley View Hot Springs, Orient Mine and Everson Ranch;
preserves the viewshed, including land acquisition; 
protects natural, wild, agricultural, and historic resources, in the northern San Luis Valley.