Wednesday 19th February – Jacket down, snooping around and battery backup

March 4, 2014

Well that didn’t last long. Writing the diary on the right day I mean, not the placement – I’m very much still here in Franconia.

Little new during the day today, just continued getting better at the testing procedure, getting up and down ladders and helping out occasionally with other bits and bobs on the farm where spare hands are needed, including an interesting method of hanging gateposts on walls. Lunch of roasted eggy potatoes and soup which was very welcome. Oh and I managed to cover myself in oil while topping up the levels in one of the gas engines. Oh well, it’s very much an outdoors coat now and may even buy a bit more kudos in a proper Yorkshire pub!

Perhaps not the best angle to take it from (sorry!) but here's Tim checking for methane leaks on the intake to the gas motors...and fortunately not finding any

Perhaps not the best angle to take it from (sorry!) but here’s Tim checking for methane leaks on the intake to the gas motors…and fortunately not finding any

We also started the snoop testing around the biogas plant looking for leaks with a ppm methane sensor. This tended to involve trying to get into all the nooks and crannies around pipework into and out of the fermenters and digestors eagerly anticipating the increasingly frantic beeping as the methane gets detected. Oddly, leak detection becomes a bit of a game and you feel oddly happy when the detector goes off. Deep down I know this means remedial work is needed in those areas (so it shouldn’t quite be so entertaining) but I somehow can’t get it out of my system.

Come the evening Thorsten invited us to go with him to a talk about battery energy storage as a complementary technology to PV which he’s organised as a representative for the local council. The talk is at a local gasthouse (bar/ restaurant/ hotel) and pretty well attended – the thirty or so men and sole woman in attendance pretty much fill the area set aside for the presentations. Both of the presentations are in German (naturally) but are spoken far too quickly for me to understand, save for the odd bit of technical detail that is sufficiently similar to English or numbers, numbers I can do (which it turns out in a sales pitch is quite helpful). Integrating battery technology with PV allows a shift in the demand/ supply balance of electricity from/ to the grid (allowing the solar supply peak to be balanced with the twin peaks in demand throughout the day).

Thorsten explains several of the slides and retells some of the anecdotes told by the presenters (there’s an island off the English coast that runs entirely off batteries apparently, and we don’t know what is round the corner – just look at the floods in England. Wales, I’m sure you were thought of too, but not mentioned I’m afraid, and I don’t know the German for Wales so I was hardly going to stick up for you there and then).

Far from the best photo I've ever taken (sorry, I was trying to be inconspicuous) but this was from the back of the pretty packed room who had turned out to learn a little bit about battery storage for PV

Far from the best photo I’ve ever taken (sorry, I was trying to be inconspicuous) but this was from the back of the pretty packed room who had turned out to learn a little bit about battery storage for PV

Another bonus of the presentation is that it is held in a gasthous and since this is southern Germany, everyone has a beer. And the beer was good, a nice smooth pilsner, but after the hard work and little sleep it hit me pretty hard so I was glad to stop at one.

We got back to the farm at around 10:30 and I was already feeling groggy just thinking about the morning when Thorsten mentioned he was probably up at 4:30 in the morning to make sure the feeder was full before he went to Mannheim. Well that put things in perspective I suppose!

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