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Adventures in high availability


As some of you may know from my other threads, we run a dairy farming operation in Canada, and milk the cows with robots 24/7. Sometimes the power goes out though. We have had a small 25KW generator for years, but you have to hook it up to the tractor and plug it in manually when the power goes out. (which is usually 4am in the middle of an ice storm) so recently we picked up a used automatic 60KW diesel unit. In this thread I’ll document some of the process of getting it installed. It could take over a year from today to get to completion but eventually we should be able to sleep right through a power outage without noticing.

Here’s the generator on the trailer, and in the background the small generator house it came out of at the previous installation. Previous owner was a chicken farmer but has now retired. Chickens require 24/7/365 ventilation and heating in the winter, so you don’t see a chicken farm without a genset.

Although it hasn’t run in 7 years, and the previous owner was unable to demonstrate it working, the unit has less than 200 hours of operation so we trusted we could get it going. After changing all the fluids and filters, and replacing the radiator hoses it fired right up. These old (1970s) Perkins engines are pretty reputable and much less complex than a modern one other than the starter motor, there are no electronics whatsoever to fail on the engine.

Here’s the first startup in the shop. Now we have to build our own small generator house and install it within.

Interestingly, since our electricity price varies with time of day and we have a few operations that use heat, it might be worth it for us to switch to generator power during times of high electricity cost if we can also use the heat from the engine to heat buildings or dry grain.
Once we get the generator actually powering something I’ll do the fuel consumption math and figure that out.