This wiki is intended as a resource base for open-source technology development for use with Micro-Hydro Power systems. The project is part of on-going work which would not be possible without the following organisations:
All designs, information and advice are provided "as is" and should only be used whilst taking the correct safety precautions. The equipment described deals with potentially lethal voltages and must be treated accordingly. If you are at all unsure about working with any of this equipment you should seek the advice of an experienced professional.
- 1 About
- 2 Safety
- 3 News
- 4 Tutorials and Resources
- 5 Bluebird ELC
- 6 Diablo HMI
- 7 Canary Load Indicator
In many remote areas of East-Asia, and other parts of the world, where grid connectivity is difficult or expensive, there are many Micro-Hydro Power systems that already provide electricity for the local communities and many more potential sites where people could benefit from such installations. This wiki is dedicated to open-source technology that can be reproduced, developed and maintained by local practitioners, to provide reliable and sustainable systems.
The project began as a collaboration between EWB-UK and Sibat in the Philippines to develop an open-source Electronic Load Controller. Since then, several other organisations have become involved to further work on the ELC design and start to develop other pieces of technology appropriate for Micro-Hydro Power Systems in a community based environment.
All hardware and software developed under this project are licensed under GNU GPLv3.0.
If you’re not at least a little bit scared of working on these systems you should be. They can be highly dangerous, with voltages and currents capable of causing serious injury or death. If you are unsure about things, seek help from an experienced Electrical Engineer who understands that if you’re not careful, you could die.
A few points that are good to remember that could save your life:
- Keep one hand (preferably your left) behind you whilst working on this kind of equipment. This will help prevent any electric shock from crossing your heart. It only takes 30 mA across your heart to stop it!
- Make sure everything is switched off before you touch anything!
- Beware of charged capacitors that can remain charged for days/weeks after the system has been powered down. Check the voltage with a multi-meter if you’re not sure.
- Use safety glasses. As we’re dealing with very large amounts of power, parts can explode quite violently and turn into nasty projectiles.
- Don’t wear metallic jewellery whilst working on these systems, particularly necklaces, bracelets and rings. A necklace is not only a serious catch hazard around fast moving parts, it’s also a wire connected to your neck.
- Make sure your power supply is fitted with a circuit breaker.
- Double or triple check everything before you switch it on! It only takes one wire in the wrong place to make a circuit dangerous or completely destroy it.
- 16-May-2019 - Bluebird ELC Load Board error fixed
- 16-May-2019 - Bluebird ELC System Schematic error fixed
- 03-Apr-2019 - ELCWiki Forum Now Available
- 02-Apr-2019 - Tonibung, Green Empowerment, Wisions and HPNet let the CanaryChic out!
- 18-Apr-2018 - SIBAT deploys 2 new Bluebird ELC units in Abra and Kalinga, Philippines
- 17-Apr-2018 - Bluebird ELC Firmware update available, v1.6 - Incorporates multi-step functionality, data-logging, on board menu system
- 15-Feb-2018 - Bluebird ELC 3 Phase system support developed and tested by EWB-UK and Tonibung (Malaysia)
- 15-Feb-2018 - Bluebird ELC Firmware update available, v1.1 - 3 Phase support
- 10-Jan-2018 - Bluebird ELC Control Board hardware version update available, v2.5 - Incorporates minor pin alterations
- 01-Dec-2017 - Bluebird ELC Pilot system recommissioned after catastrophic lightning strike
- 15-Apr-2017 - SIBAT in collaboration with EWB-UK deploy Bluebird ELC single phase, 8KW pilot system in Abra, Philippines
Tutorials and Resources
This section provides links to notes, tutorials and guides as well as other general resources.
Notes on Theory
- Notation, Units and Symbols
- Electrical Theory
- Common Circuit Elements
- Binary, Bits, Bytes and Hex
Notes on Practical
- PCB Production
- Electronics Assembly and Testing
- Programming the ATMEGA328(P)
- Programming the FRDM-KL26Z
- Introduction to Git
To date, 4 units are installed and operational in the Philippines; two single-phase and two 3-phase system, all rated at 24KW. Further development is in progress to incorporate lessons learned from the Rev 2.5 version of the control board, incorporate some new features, and to provide expansion connectors for future improvements. Both the hardware and software seem to operate in a stable manor, and could therefore be deployed as standalone systems, however reliability is closely linked to the quality of the manufacturing processes, particularly with regards to soldering and cleaning the PCBs. Ideally, some sort of conformal coating should be applied after cleaning as the high humidity, high temperature environment of South-East Asia is very disruptive to exposed electronics, particularly if they are coated in flux residues.
Documents and Resources
In conjunction with continued development of Bluebird ELC, we decided to move away from the integrated display/HMI system to provide a more modular approach. This gave rise to a more customizable, easier to install, and more versatile system, which should be compatible with many pieces of equipment due to its standard RS232 interface. The system is built up using one HMI Controller board connected with one or more display boards in a "daisy chained" style arrangement.
Documents and Resources
Canary Load Indicator
This is a low cost indicator device currently under development for use with Micro-Hydro Systems. Many Micro-Hydro communities suffer the same issues with on-peak and off-peak usage of energy as the rest of the world does. During off-peak hours far more than enough energy is being produced, whereas during on-peak times, the demand can increase many times. The first, most economical, and most resource conscious way to combat this problem is to work together to optimally balance the power utilization throughout the day by means of power scheduling plans and community organization. When this is done properly, it can be seen that in reality a far more modest system is perfectly capable of powering many households, however, there are inevitably occasions when a "perfect storm" arrives and too many appliances are active on the network at once. In this situation, the system can be overloaded and will cause its safety mechanism to disconnect the power from the village.
This device is not a new idea, but aims to be an open-source design that is easy to build and could be installed in each household to provide an early warning indication that a system is close to overload, the hope being that the consumers in the village can then take steps to disconnect any unnecessary appliances.