No power in lebanon

In 1970 during the war in lebanon, yehia raya was just another civilian trying to get by. surviving in a bombed out walk-up apartment in a typical beirut neighborhood was an ordeal in itself.

There was no electricity, no food and no water. war was everywhere.

Until 1982 lebanon still had an electric grid that supplied power for maybe 3 or 4 hours a day. it was totally unreliable, prone to unacceptable voltage variations and power surges that could wreck equipment,also they never knew when the power would be on.

The frequent bombings ended all electricity generation in the country for years to come.

There had always been ways to find food so that was not a problem. he set to work on a small power system to run a few lights. tv, radio and in the days before e-mail- a telex machine. from 1977-82 yehia had constructed various low power systems but now a more powerful system was required, to recharge some batteries and to provide 220vac 50hz.

The system components consisted of a high frequency multivibrator, a frequency divider, a switching current amplifier and relays to automatically send power to charge batteries or to run equipment. there were no inverters availabe at your local hardware store in those days. this primitive system would work but he still needed a way to generate electricity to begin with.

Sixty percent of the country had some power sometimes using motorcycle or other similar gasoline engines to run an alternator. gasoline was scarce and of undetermined quality, often mixed with kerosene and naphtha, which burned too quick, too hot and provided almost no power to the engine.

It also gave off huge clouds of dense, billowing black smoke anytime someone would attempt to run their system with no mufflers ,the engine was extremely loud as well, often drowning out the sound of the tv that they were trying to watch. Obviously people were reluctant to operate these devices for even a few hours but with urban terrorists, sniper attacks and bombs,some smoke and noise was the least of their problems!

Yehia managed to get a small gasoline engine with a muffler. to obtain a constant current output he used an automatic voltage regulator (avr) which provided a triac controlled regulated output. once he had assembled all the components he was ready to generate some power. it certainly wasn't renewable energy but it started to make life a little easier.

There were no specially designed alternate energy batteries available so the only choice was car batteries. these batteries are designed for float service and are not meant to be continually discharged greater than 15 to 20 % of their rated output. This presented problems but by making sure that they were not regularly discharged more than 50% yehia was able to keep them in service for about a year before they died. typical car batteries can last from 3 to 5 years if treated properly.

Alternative energy batteries easily last 10 years and more but in a difficult situation he had to use what was available. when batteries wore out, there were always others to be found.

author - keith anderson

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