Exclusive “Off the Grid” Report
Prepping Possum Holler
Part Two: Bio-gas Generator Systems
by Rick Osmon THEI.us Web Master/Writer
In the event of a total societal and industrial breakdown, the local gas station has about 6 hours of stock. After that, you’ll either be burning stored gasoline or making your own fuel. Most people would be clueless where to start on the latter. I sure was, and then I spent time and money to get educated on it. So now I have a clue, but I haven’t yet solved the case.
Bio-gas is one form of fuel that your stationary small engines (like generators) can be adapted to use. Burning it is actually easy, but manufacturing it and storing it are not so much. Almost any vegetable matter, including manure, can be turned into biogas and solid byproducts (fertilizer), but, as you may imagine, it can be a dirty and dangerous business.
Another source of gas is lake water, well sort of. The bubbles that come up through a lake are methane and quite combustible.
So, I’m working on a system to collect that gas and run it into a generator. On my scale, it will require at least a quarter acre to an acre of heavy plastic sheeting, a bunch of plastic pipe, some metal pipe, valves, some weights, a couple thousand zip ties, a thousand feet of heavy buried electrical cable, a small generator house, and will require a decent size jon boat and a few hundred feet of rope for the installation process. In order to maintain the gas pressure I will need to run the engine(s), the highest point of the collector will have to be at least 17 feet beneath the lake surface.
I have several advantages in this scheme: (1) I own the lake and it’s of appropriate form and size, (2) I already own a generator capable of powering the all electric farmstead, (3) it’s rural, so the noise, code, and zoning restrictions are not insurmountable, (4) there are several interested private parties willing to help with construction and installation.
There are also some disadvantages: (1) I have no way of actually measuring the amount of methane this lake produces, so I can’t know for sure the production is adequate for this plan; (2) The plastic sheeting could be subject to damage during certain recreational activities and fishing in this lake could end up being a primary source of protein in a true SHTF scenario; (3) One level or another of government is going to figure out a way to tax it.
There are also some modifications required to make the generator run on biogas. I’ll be using the research already done by others as a starting point, but I still need to get it right the first time if I don’t want to buy expensive replacement parts. Some of the best work has been done by B. T. Nijaguna
If I get everything right, I should be able to produce 6.375 kW continuously – on free fuel – using a generator I already own, generally available materials, and comparatively easy construction.
That would generally be more electrical power than this place would consume and, in theory, I would be able to sell some back to the grid. But right now, my home State of Indiana is entertaining a move to allow the grid operators (DUKE) to only pay wholesale AND to charge fees for hooking up as a seller. This will kill most wannabe small producers’ plans. I’ll forego the net metering and lose the revenue from sales in exchange for not paying their exorbitant rates.