Sunday, February 25, 2007

Mor Te Ta Hydroelectric Project

I'm now back in Alaska, but will put in one more entry on Thailand to wrap up the trip. One of the coolest parts of the trip was getting to hang out with some "Engineering Studies Program" (ESP) students from the Mae La Refugee Camp (in the photo below). Most of them have lived in the camp for over 10 years, after fleeing from Burma (Myanmar). The Burmese Military Junta is pretty brutal. You can read about it online if you are interested. I've also put a link to these student's new blog on my blog. This trip to the village was by special pass for only 10 days and was, for most of them, the only time they have left the camp. I was also not allowed into the camp, since I had no pass to enter the camp. They cannot have gardens and are very limited in their activities. These students spoke english pretty well and have studied hard. They are very interesting to talk to, since their lives are soooo different from mine.Here is the waterfall where we built the hydro-electric project. We ultimately built a dam at the top, with a 3 in PVC pipe down to a turbine at the bottom of the waterfall. The electricity was transmitted 1 KM to the school in the village of Mor Te Ta via a pretty thick aluminim wire. Probably equivalent to a ASG 6 guage wire. Plenty for the small amp draw that the school required. There was only a small transmission loss of voltage, from about 250 V at the powerhouse down to 230 V or so at the school.
All of the materials had to be carried up and down the waterfall. Luckily there weren't any injuries, eventhough most people were climbing up and down in flip flops. The local guys zoomed up and down, while the rest of us took a little longer.
This is Chris setting the "penstock" (pipe) into place before the dam was built up.
Here is Arie putting the final touches on the dam. You cannot work with cement underwater and we could not divert the water, so we had to build the dam as a bridge over the water, then use sand bags and rocks to fill in underneath the dam when we were ready to bring the waterlevel up.

I smashed my finger with one of the big boulders that was used to make the dam. It swelled up to about twice the normal size and became really gross, puss and all.

This is what the finger looks like now, three weeks after smashing it. After about two weeks, the puss and blood that was built up underneath the nail started to stink, so I had to cut the nail out. The very end of the nail didn't get smashed and is still hanging on. Kinda gross.

This is me with the turbine. Ultimately, a small building was constructed over the turbine.
Here is Andrew (Patch) with a crew of mostly local villagers at the top of the waterfall. The project is nearly complete.

This is the area at the top of the waterfall after the dam was completed. The sections of culvert were placed to protect the dam from logs that may float down the river after a heavy rain. The dam is a weak point in the system, so the idea was to protect the dam.

The villagers are very good at Ta Kraw (spelling?), which is a game like volleyball, but it is played with a wicker ball and you can not use your hands or arms. This guy lands on his feet - believe it or not!

At the end of my trip, I got to join in an ultimate frizbee hat tournament in Bangkok. It was a good couple days. Fun to hang out with everyone and some good frizbee, overall a great time.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Back from the village

just returned to Mae Sot from a village up north. It was a Thai/Karen village in a national forest up in the mountains. It was very beautiful and the people who live there are wonderful. What an amazing place to visit.

All in all, it took 8 days to install the micro-hydro electric project. There were four main areas of work to be completed:
1. Powerhouse holding the turbine at the bottom of the waterfall
2. Dam at the top of the waterfall to collect water for the pipe to the turbine
3. Powerline from the powerhouse to the school
4. Wiring the school

The local folks are amazingly efficient at construction and did most of the work. On the last day, it was very cool to see the lights come on at the school. This was a small project and the turbine only produces around 2 kW of electricity. This is just enough for lights in all of the school buildings and not much more than that. But, it does generate electricity 24 hours per day.

I was very happy to return to all of the great cuisine here in Mae Sot. The villagers were very generous with cooking food and sharing with all of us out there. But, I was very excited to get some different food after 8 days of eating rice, ramen noodles, pumpkin, and fish paste 3 meals per day. So, I am eating everything i can, and it is sooooooo good.