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Pre-proposal: Renewable enegy DAO

Discussion in 'Pre + Budget Proposal Discussions' started by stan.distortion, Oct 10, 2017.

  1. stan.distortion

    stan.distortion Active Member
    Masternode Owner/Operator

    Oct 30, 2014
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    A renewable energy project intended to address the "cryptocurrency uses too much electricity" complaint. It aims to do this by supplying more power from renewable sources than the total used by Dash, the initial stage is a relatively small hydro installation (around 20 to 100Kva) for a proposed budget of around 50 to 200 Dash.

    Who am I?
    My name is Alan Stanley, I'm 42 and based close to Dublin in Ireland. My background is mostly in plant and industrial machinery, mechanical engineering, hydraulics and control/automation. I've been involved in open source projects since around 2002, Bitcoin since mid 2012 and Dash since mid 2014.

    What are the aims of this proposal?
    In short, to establish a DAO for the generation and supply of energy from renewable sources. That's a far-reaching goal with many different aspects needing many kinds of expertise and one that wont happen overnight, the aim is to start off small and build out. The model is self funding with zero profit, all proceeds from existing supply go back into maintenance, improvement and expansion.

    From a "digital cash" perspective, aside from increased adoption the aim is to continue addressing common complaints ("it's too slow", "it's too traceable"...) by taking on the "it uses too much electricity" argument. This may also support the view that the amount of power needed to mine is one of the things that give cryptocurrency value but my personal views and initial aims with this project are neutral on that point.

    How much will it cost?
    That depends on the output and location. At the low end of the scale I have several good locations here in Ireland with potential for around 20Kva that could be completed for around 40 Dash. Higher up the scale there are countless locations around the world that could supply several megawatts to people badly in need of it and be completed for less than 1000 Dash. Personally I'd prefer to start with a small project to establish procedures and build up things like smart metering, grid management, the DAO components, etc. and then move up in size but from a hardware perspective it's only a matter of scale, the engineering principles are identical and the cost/output ratio improves with size.

    Height equals pressure and pressure by volume equals power. A small mountain stream can provide as much power as a wide river on the planes but both have their pros and cons, mountain streams tend to flow erratically while lower heads (the height between source and generation) mean physically bigger hardware and so greater cost for the same output.

    That's only the most basic consideration, permission to use a site can be a major hurdle and environmental considerations are always a top priority. Ideal conditions tend to be rocky and fast flowing with little for life to cling onto but even those often have slow flowing areas with life depending entirely on that water for its existence. It's impossible to avoid environmental impact, simply diverting flow does that but the less harm done, the more favorable the location.

    The generated power has to be useful, transporting it over distance can quickly become the most expensive component so ideally it needs to be used close by, residential use, industrial, simply feeding it into the grid, all are good and the more people need that power, the more favorable. I'd much prefer to get this project started somewhere it can significantly improve peoples lives than somewhere it can save them a small amount for a faster return.

    Example installation
    This is based on the retrofit of an existing community hydro installation near me, I might be doing the retrofit and if so I'll document it as an example.

    H (Head): 10m
    F (Flow): 210 liters a second (existing penstock, 3m/s flow rate)
    P (pressure: 1 bar (H*0.098 rounded)
    Theoretical power equals (P*F)/10 or 21 kilowatts and efficiency is usually in the region of 75% so actual output will be around 15kw.

    In this installation using a commonly available pump as a turbine is the only viable option (PaT). This
    is standard practice and often used for energy recovery in industry but manufacturer data for pump as turbine operation is scarce. Usually efficiencies are close to the available pump data but the operating conditions for the efficient range are unknown and very difficult to accurately calculate.

    The downside to PaT is a more or less fixed efficient operating range, they can be throttled to reduce output but that's very inefficient. The usual solution is to have multiple generator/turbine units and switch them in and out as needed but it's a crude system and can have slow response to load changes.

    Francis turbines or Pelton wheels would allow variable operation but the price range for Francis turbines is roughly 10x that of common industrial pumps of the same capacity. Pelton wheels can be cost effective but they need higher pressures than this site has available and there are extra costs involved with a single high pressure penstock instead of multiple stages at low pressure. Bulk purchasing would make both viable and much better options than PaT but for now they're a specialized component and thus expensive.

    An alternative to multiple turbine/generators is multiple turbine, single generator. This can be wasteful, usually belt drive is used which has its own losses and if free wheel clutches aren't used there's a high loss at low loads. On the upside belt drives make matching the PaT to the conditions much simple and response time is faster.

    Those are AC generation options and that has it's own problems even under ideal conditions. Maintaining phase stability is one of the most difficult, staying at 50 or 60 hz with varying loads and responding to sudden loads without voltage drop is another. The simplest solution is to constantly run at 100% and dump the excess, quite a common solution in ye olden days and one that can be adapted to heating or a multitude of industrial uses but not a favorite these days, still the most cost effective if water supply isn't limited though.

    Another option is DC, battery and inverter and if coupled with solar it's the most cost effective option for small scale installation. If only hydro is used then it's an expensive option and it quickly becomes less cost effective as outputs rise, 10kw is a rough maximum but there are plenty of cost effective installations with higher outputs. That's the simplest solution to both power conditioning and on/off operation but also has higher maintenance costs which can make it less cost effective than other methods over time.

    Multiple turbines are common to all those methods and that's unfortunate, a single pump for the full capacity would cost around 1400 euro while 3 individual pumps would total around 2700. The cost/output ratio scales up fast, for ex. a pump suitable for 4x the output at the same pressure is around 2000 euro and the same size range would be suitable for up to around 5x the pressure (and so 5x that output or around 300kva).

    The situation is similar with generators, prices vary a lot between brands but well-proven 15kva units are available for around 2000 euro while 3x the same brand adding up to 15kva would be around 3500.

    That's adding up to about 6200 euro for multiple turbine generator and 4700 for multiple turbine single generator, a saving around 1500 euro but it takes most of that to cover the added complexity and need for extra components so it's a tradeoff between reliability and performance, direct drive or belt drive. The ease of matching PaT efficiency to generator speed puts the balance in favor of belt drive if PaT performance is unknown, direct drive wins out otherwise.

    In the DC option the maximum output of the inverter permitted by the grid for grid-tie connection sets a limit of 5kw. A single PaT can be used with simple on/off control but multiple would be more desirable for battery lifespan. Generation can be with high output alternators or more easily available automotive alternators, the cost/kw is slightly better for the automotive parts and availability is much better but maintenance costs are higher. Example costs are around 800 per PaT (x2) and 150 per alternator (x4) or about 2200, add belts, pulleys, tensioners etc. and the total's around 3000 euro. Batteries another 4000, inverter 5000 (oddball Irish specs, European spec around 3k) and the bulky hardware adds up to around 12000 euro, 2x to 3x that if the full 15kw is needed.

    Just for example, a grid tied asynchronous installation (single PaT, induction motor as generator) would total around 2000 euro and be far simpler than any of the above. The downside is it has fixed output and depends on the grid, when the grid goes down the generator output goes down too as the motor depends on the grid for induction. It's possible to overcome that but it's quite crude and still has the PaT control issues but it's quite a common type of installation in the less developed world and many give good service here in the west.

    That's just the generating hardware, pipework and valving can range from 200 to 500 for the most simple on/off operation and anything from 1000 to 5000 or even higher for multiple PaT with variable operation. Penstock piping can often add up to more than the generating hardware, for this site there's about 60m of 300mm piping and it's a low pressure system so would cost a little under 1000 euro. That would be suitable for up to around 5 bar (~50m head), over that and the piping costs increase dramatically. In most cases multiple generating stages at lower pressures work out cheaper but when there's a steep fall high pressure is usually the better option.

    Groundworks vary a lot from site to site, in this case they're fairly simple and would be around 1500 euro but more difficult conditions could easily be 10x that. Cabling is another cost that can quickly get out of hand, in this case it's a relatively short run and low current so the cost is fairly low at about 500 euro but moving a few hundred kilowatts over a few kilometers could come in at well over 10000.

    Adding things up this installation could be done for around 12000 euro start to finish for a reliable and stable off-grid system capable of powering about 7 to 10 houses. At a constant 100% output at 0.09c per unit (the buyback rate here) it would pay for it's self in a little over a year, domestic consumption is usually around 10-15% of peak capacity and 25% or higher if optimized for the lower electricity costs (this site is) so 5-6 years is a safe figure. The asynchronous example is much lower, around 5000 total cost and a potential RoI of just 5 months but it's a special case, nice if you can get 'em but not great for a an off-grid system.


    Any questions or comments appreciated and suggestions for locations or interest in participating especially welcome. Thanks.
    #1 stan.distortion, Oct 10, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017
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  2. PabloS

    PabloS New Member
    Masternode Owner/Operator

    May 31, 2017
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    I would definitely vote yes for this.

    I agree with you, if Dash produces more energy than consumes it, it would be a great thing for Dash in a marketing point of view. And it could at the same time benefit the poorest countries a great deal.
    I also like the fact that you want to start small at the beginning to test everything.

    This would be perfect, but how can you ensure that it will be the case ? I guess a total transparency could work.
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  3. stan.distortion

    stan.distortion Active Member
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    Oct 30, 2014
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    Thanks :)

    That seems the most sensible route to me, there's an awful lot of work between an installation generating power and a fully functioning DAO. The good thing is many of the components are in development elsewhere, things like smart metering and grid tech are on a real trend at the mo with many projects running and ready to use if they fit in well.

    Yep, total transparency of accounting and operating conditions (outputs, line loads, etc.) is what I'm aiming for along with total privacy of user data plus things like weather data, river levels etc. if they're available. I don't think it would be possible with accounts hidden and if no-one can relate smart meter data to the meters themselves I don't see any reason to hide the funds. I'm following an open source project that's working on that area and it's usable at this stage, bugs to iron out, features to add and it could probably do with a review before going out into the wild but it would get the ball rolling and it's just one of many similar projects.

    The hard part is the DAO. Managing a grid is a lot different to the Dash DAO, it's practically all procedure, "this line is approaching capacity, request upgrade", "output low on that generator, request inspection", that kind of thing. Decision making is mostly reduced to things like "who's going to do this upgrade/inspection?" and from there it gets into things like reputation and locality and then there's dynamic pricing... I'd rather not speculate on that too much tbh, initially I was aiming for a target of around 4 cent a kw/h across the board and let things evolve from there. It could turn out that figure's way too low but for that range of installation, 20-100kw/h, it should be possible to get a return on investment below 3 years if consumption rates are good. After that it's putting funds back in, ideally they're going straight back out to pay materials, labour, etc. but that could be a tricky area, I think it should hold no funds but it might turn out necessary.
    #3 stan.distortion, Oct 10, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2017
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