Alternative workshop power

If I haven’t mentioned it before I run a modest woodworking shop here in France. Which requires a steady flow of electricity. The power requirements of my woodshop are not great but reliability is very imported.

Reliable power!

Rural France has a notorious issue with the power grid. Of recent years they have been investing in underground cables but they have a long way to go. So I have to make alternative provisions to Frances grid power. 

What are my options for alternative workshop power

With modern machines, we are stuck with electricity. Though during the industrial revolution large scale workshops used steam power or even a waterwheel. There is no fast-flowing water here so I’ll need to find an electrical option. 

  • Wind power 
  • Solar
  • Generator
  • hybrid

Wind-powered workshop

Wind power can produce high amperage of electricity but the wind isn’t always blowing. Windturbines work well but are better suited to battery storage. Windturbines rely on magnetism and the power they produce must be used or stored. If you do not use or store power produced by a wind turbine the magnet motor generators will overheat. 

Solar 

For the workshop, solar power seems to be a good option. It is inert, what I mean by that is solar panels do not need a dump load to use the excess power. 

Generator 

Generators are handy for times when the power is cut or a line is down. As a backup source of power, a generator is a must-have. As a primary source of power generators are far too costly to run.

Hybrid power 

When I refer to Hybrid power I refer to a mix of green energy and grid power. 

What green energy did I use for my woodworking shop?

I evaluated all my options and come up with the idea that a hybrid power supply would be a good solution. The reason for this choice was that I needed a reliable power source. I can’t have a situation when I am halfway cutting through a piece of wood and the power fades.

My hybrid energy solution

Since I decided to go the hybrid route I had to design my system. My Hybrid electricity plan involved solar and a grid power supply backup. My first solution was to invest in batteries but the cost of quality deep cycle AGMs was prohibitive. So the existing EDF grid power had to stay and I looked at the reduction of power consumption by installing solar power.

Self-consumption versus grid-tie

I looked into grid-tie contracts but the cost of just installing the unit by EDF was 2000 euros without the invertor. 

Grid-tie green energy

Grid-tie contracts work in a bizarre way, your existing electricity bill will be charged as usual. The electricity provider will read the energy you produced via a meter or online connection and send you a check or direct payment. The amount you receive will be dependent on how much green energy you produce and the rate which is agreed in your contract.

Self-consumption

We opted for a hybrid self-consumption system. It was simple and practical. The bonus is that you have no contract with your provider or have to pay that 2000 euro install. The downside of self-consumption green energy is that you cannot sell the power back to the electricity provider.

My green energy hybrid system

Yes, it is a hybrid non-feed to the grid but it is cheap and simple. It does not feed the grid because I have a diode fitted so as not to break the law. You do not need a diode if you have a digital meter as those only allow the electricity to flow out and will not allow your green energy to enter the grid.

Equipment for self-consumption off-grid  

My simple off-grid solution is cost-effective and probably the cheapest solution I could find. Be careful though as I made a mistake early on by purchasing cheap micro inverters. I bought four but only one works now. A total waste of money! The inverter that breaks is a WVC 1200 and are marketed on eBay and Amazon.

You will need

  • Solar panels
  • 4mm Cables
  • NC4 connectors
  • Inverter

Solar panels

Solar panels are the electrical generators of your personal power generation system. There are many Chinese or Indian branded solar panels that are available for not a lot of money. My solar array is around 10KW and is made up of 285w Sun Edison and 240w TATA branded panels. All my panels are monocrystalline but polycrystalline is good too just not quite so efficient as monocrystalline.  

Solar cables

Most domestic solar power cables are 4mm cross-section with nc4 connectors. The pre-manufactured cables make the installation very quick and easy. 

The inverter is the heart of the solar system

I chose to buy a used inverter made by Fronius and I am very happy with it. It has wifi connection so I can monitor the electricity production. Safety systems include island protection which senses a grid cut and shuts down the solar supply. This protects workers on the grid.

Quick Note: Feeding the grid via an old analogue meter

It is interesting if you have an old analogue meter, the type with a flywheel that turns when power is consumed. The special thing is that if you push your green electricity into your electrical system it will either slow the meter or even make it turn backwards. Now be careful though as you should only do this if it is legal for you to do so. Your invertor much have island protection too. 

My conclusion on my hybrid solar electricity power station

Well that’ my simple grid-tie solar-powered workshop and a little gem it has been too. It was not our first option but it was our most affordable. If my pockets were deep I would have invested in batteries and stuck a finger up to EDF. But at least if the sun does not shine we have a green system that has a good back up power supply provided by the grid.

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