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Publication Title | Steam for the Homestead

Organic Rankine Cycle

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Skip Goebel ©1999 Skip Goebel

A 10 KW steam unit with a 400 amp maximum output at 30 volts.

lthough steam power has been around for centuries, small-scale

steam power has gone the way of the straight razor and a young girl’s ability to make apple pie. We have become so spoiled on refined fuels and disposable goods that the skills necessary to be self sufficient have long been lost.

In days past, steam allowed people who were less than affluent to be producers of goods and services using the raw resources at hand. Today, steam is making a resurgence in the alternative energy field and promises to give other forms of alternative energy a run for their money. But steam power is no longer common. So education is necessary to give people the tools to make an educated choice.

Is Steam Right for You?

It is possible to generate electricity for the homestead with small-scale steam power. To find out if steam is right for you, answer these questions: How much wood do you want to cut? How much money do you want to spend? What are you going to do with all the heat? Do you have the savvy required to use an unrefined fuel?

How Much Wood Do You Want to Cut?

Most people say, “I have plenty of trees.” What they don’t realize is how much material handling is involved in using an unrefined fuel. A lot of elbow grease is needed to handle wood. And practically speaking, there is just not very much electricity in a stick of wood.

In typical steam systems, a small 500 watt genset may consume 20 pounds (9 kg) of wood an hour. A larger 10 KW AC powerplant uses 200 pounds (91 kg) of wood per hour, and if run constantly could consume a cord of softwood in less than two days. Now you see why coal and oil can look like viable options! Sure, you can get more by being more efficient, but that is a matter of cost, so...

60 Home Power #72 • August / September 1999

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