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TAS Country : July 2010
4 Tasmanian Country Friday, July 30, 2010 News Pipe dreams INNOVATION: Nigel Tomlin with the hydro system he designed and built. It took the bureaucracy two decades to catch up with a country boy with a bright idea. Jennifer Crawley reports ELLENDALE farmer Nigel Tomlin loved playing in puddles as a kid. The engineering expert has always been fascinated by the power of water and that fascination has paid off for the boy who grew up on the Jones River. Nigel has built a mini-hydro power station on its banks that supplies enough power for his needs plus most of the town of Ellendale. ''I have always found the power of water intriguing,'' Nigel said. The power station inventor has a very broad background in hydro equip- ment. He learnt two trades, fitting and machining and boiler making at Liverpool Engineering in Hobart, stud- ied electrical theory at Hydro Tas- mania and trained as a power station operator and worked in hydro asset management. He has worked for international companies in Japan and Europe and last worked as an engineer in New Zealand. ''It is fair to say that I am skilled in all aspects of engineering,'' Nigel said. ''But I haven't got a degree in engineer- ing.'' Nigel gave the engineering side away five years ago to come back to the 161ha family farm at Ellendale. ''I enjoy farming and being my own boss,'' he said. Nigel grows cherries, cabbage seed and produces Angus breeding cows. After a disease went through his cherry crop he learnt to diversify. He built an accommodation cottage and finally realised his long held dream to build his own power station. He had designed a smaller scheme 22 years ago. He even purchased the turbine from Tamar Designs founder John Lemon with the intention of building a little hydro power scheme that would pay his power bills. Nigel submitted the electrical design to the Hydro Electric Commission so he could connect to the grid. The HEC agreed with his design but would not pay for the power produced. ''They were not interested --- said it was too small an amount of power,'' Nigel said. The turbine has been sitting in the shed at Ellendale for 22 years. It was only last year when then primary industry minister David Ll- ewellyn announced new legislation for feed-in tariffs that Nigel decided to go ahead and resubmit his plans. He started building in November last year and commissioned the plant on May 27 this year, with time out for picking cherries. ''In the 22 years, I knew exactly what I wanted to do,'' Nigel said. ''I knew where to put the power station, I had done the designs on the pipework and the materials. ''I had been picking up equipment for over 22 years to do it. It all came together quite quickly.'' The tiny stone building is built over the Jones River which rises in Mt Field east. ''It is a reliable flow, it never dries,'' Nigel said. The river used to support the once thriving small berry and hop pro- duction in Ellendale. Nigel enlisted enthusiastic help from his mates who are retired Hydro workers, civil and electrical engineers and experts in their field. ''The station uses an induction motor which has advantages for small scale generation because you don't have to have governing control or speed con- trol and you don't have to have voltage regulation, it's all held by the grid, that excludes a lot of costly complicated equipment,'' Nigel said. Son Josh and neighbour Rob Baker helped Nigel build the shed in the traditional slip method. ''We started at the bottom with boxing boards inner and outer and the material was from the excavation where the turbine house is so it was all the rocks,'' Nigel said. ''It was built from the bottom up. ''The roof was built out in the paddock and lifted on top like a lid with the excavator. ''That worked well, its steep pitch gives us ventilation and acts as a truss for lifting equipment in and out.'' He said the station has very little environmental impact. ''There are no dams, the water just comes straight out of the creek and into a pipe. ''There is a bypass around the intake so there's always an environmental flow in the river. ''It's built with continually welded polythene pipe so there's no risk of breaks and reasonably low pressure. ''The turbine has no internal lubri- cation so there's no risk of any water contamination there's no oil in the $19,950* SAVE $2,450 off rrp $33,950* SAVE $3,250 off rrp PIECE PACKAGE INCLUDES NEW APOLLO X50 4-in-1 Self-levelling Front End Loader NEW APOLLO X40 Pallet & Bale Fork Combo NEW APOLLO Sunroof NEW AGMAX 5' Slasher NEW AGMAX Post Hole Digger with your choice of Auger NEW AGMAX 6' Stick Rake NEW AGMAX Single Tyne Ripper NEW AGMAX Towbar and Ball YOURS for only $123 per week! Inc GST 9 YOURS for only $169 per week! 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