***Beware: this post is a doozy*** With v25 of Reika’s mods being released any day, now, solar power is about to be rendered impossible as an early-game strategy. Nevertheless, the setup I started describing in my last post not only works (assuming you have access to the materials necessary to craft it), but also serves as a useful way to introduce many of the blocks made available by Electricraft. As I mentioned before, the problem with solar power is that it doesn’t work at night. But with Electricraft, what we can do is stabilize the energy system by storing the mechanical energy the solar tower generates during the daytime in the form of a battery, which can provide that energy on demand, day or night.
What is Electricraft?
First of all, what is Electricraft and what is it for? Electricraft is a small but powerful mod whose sole purpose is to provide a native electrical system for Rotarycraft and Reactorcraft. It adds several tiers of batteries, many different kinds of electrical wire, a generator to turn mechanical energy into electrical energy, a motor to change it back, a resistor to limit the current of a particular electrical line, and a relay to allow the flow of electricity to be controlled by a redstone signal. Unlike some other mods’ power storage systems, Electricraft aims for realism. Electrical power is measured in amperes, volts, Watts, and Joules, all of which naturally relate to the Newton-meters, radians per second, and Watts of Rotarycraft’s mechanical energy (amperage x voltage = Watts; 1 Joule = 1 Watt used in one second = 1 Newton-meter). When energy is transmitted from one system to another, voltage is proportional to rotation speed, amperage to torque. If none of this interests you … why the heck not?
Storing energy with Electricraft
Alright, enough of the theoretical stuff: so how do you USE it in a game? The first blocks you have to craft before you can use Electricraft are the induction generator (mechanical to electrical) and the induction motor (electrical to mechanical). Unlike the way you run machines from other tech mods, there are no machines that run directly off of Electricraft’s electrical energy. It has to be converted back into Rotarycraft’s mechanical energy. The point of Electricraft is storage and transference of energy.
First of all, let’s look at how to turn mechanical energy into electricity and store it. For this project, I have made the second tier of battery, the lustrous battery, which stores 16.777 MJ of energy (essentially enough energy, if channeled correctly, to run a 32 kW machine for about eight-and-a-half minutes) and emits 64 amps at 512 volts (essentially the power of two steam engines, but not exactly …). What you do is connect your Rotarycraft shaft directly to the back of the induction generator. The generator connects either directly into a battery or through wire into a battery. As John Madden would say, Boom! You got yourself some electrical energy. Ace is the place.
Using Electricraft energy to power Rotarycraft machines
Now for the complicated part: how do we take the energy that we are now storing in that lustrous battery and do stuff with it? Though in the last post I showed two systems for powering two friction heaters, for simplicity’s sake I want to focus on one friction heater. One friction heater needs 8.192 kW of power with at torque of at least 32 Nm. This means that I need to be sending to my induction motor (which will convert the electricity back into mechanical energy) 8.192 kW of electricity. But here’s one of many places where things get tricky: 1 ampere = 8 Nm, while 8 volts = 1 rad/s. So 64 amperes at 512 volts sent directly into an induction motor produces not 64 Nm at 512 rad/s, but 512 Nm at 64 rad/s. Ouch. I am literally bleeding out of my nose and ears.
This means that the ideal electrical charge for our induction motor would actually be 4 amperes at 2048 volts. What do we do? We can handle this in a couple of different ways. First, we could try changing the electrical current.
Solution 1: Alter the electricity using a resistor
Reducing amperage is easy in Electricraft: you use a resistor.
Using a resistor and a superconductor wire, you can limit the current to 16 amperes. At 512 volts, this will produce 8.192 kW (128 Nm at 64 rad/s). It’s okay for the friction heater if we have more than 32 Nm, and it’s also okay if we have less than 256 rad/s, so no mechanical conversion is necessary. Unfortunately, you’re probably not going to have superconductor wire. In the picture below I have used an insulated silver wire and a limit of 17 amperes instead of 16. This produces just over the required 8.192 kW, which is fine.
While we’re on the subject of changing electrical energy, you can also increase amperage. This is done by merging the power of two electrical lines of equal voltage into a single line. For example, two lustrous batteries emitting to a common line of superconductor wire will merge their amperage and produce a total charge of 128 amperes at 512 volts (64 kW of power).
Voltage is a more difficult thing. While you can reduce amperage with a resistor, there is no direct way (meaning no single block) in Electricraft to reduce voltage other than running the electricity through wires, each of which reduce voltage by a specific amount per meter (except for superconductor wire which has no resistance value). Steel wire, for example, is the worst conducting material in Electricraft. It reduces voltage by 64 volts per meter (= a block, in Minecraft). This means that it would be terrible for transferring power over a long distance, but it would only take 6 pieces of steel wire to reduce the 512 volts that the lustrous battery emits to 128 volts. 64 amperes at 128 volts would produce 8.192 kW. I do not recommend you do this, though, because wires also have an amperage limit, and steel wire’s limit is 16 amperes. Exceed this and you have instant lava. Instead, you would use tin wire, which has an amperage limit of 64 amperes and a lossage of 32 volts per meter (so 12 pieces of tin wire).
Now, you could just forget about limiting amperage. Why not just run the friction heater at full capacity? You’re not wanting to use all that extra electrical power you say? Oh, well, sorry. You’ve been doing that anyway. See, the thing is that the amperage and voltage that you lose in transmission through wires and resistors isn’t preserved anywhere. It just disappears into heat. To illustrate, let’s say you have a full lustrous battery, and you connect it to another through a superconductor wire (no voltage loss) and a resistor with a 2 ampere limit. All the resistor lets into the second lustrous battery is 1.024 kW (2 amperes x 512 volts), but the first lustrous battery is still emitting 32 kW (64 amperes x 512 volts). Even if you completely drain the first battery of its 16.777 MJ, the second one will only end up with 0.524 MJ. The rest is simply lost. That’s no good.
Solution 2: Better living through tier 1 batteries
But there is a solution: send the energy into a lower-tier redstone battery first. Redstone batteries store less energy, which is why we didn’t start with them in the first place. We needed a solution to store enough power to get us through the night without solar power. But redstone batteries also emit 8.192 kW, or 32 amperes at 256 volts: just right for what we need for a friction heater and without losing all that energy in a resistor! Well, that is, of course, assuming you have a lossless superconductor wire to connect your redstone battery to your induction motor. [head banging against my desk]
If you don’t have superconductor wire, what you’ll have to do is first send the energy from your lustrous battery into not one but two adjacent redstone batteries. Remember how I said you could combine amperage? Well, this is why that’s important.
There is more to what I myself have built (a comparator detection system to trigger electrical emission), but this post is already way too long as it is. Is this build completely impractical? Well, not completely impractical. Okay, it’s pretty impractical, especially when you can just use wind power instead of solar power. What I hope you’ll take away from this post is a basic understanding and appreciation of the blocks and dynamics of Electricraft.
Electricraft is challenging, but it is not inaccessible, you just have to work at it. As an educator (I actually have a PhD in ancient texts and dead languages, part of the point of which is to get me a job teaching undergraduate students how to read ancient texts in dead languages), I love the fact that I have learned so much in the process of playing with this mod. Now, obviously, if you’re playing with another tech mod that has its own approximation of electricity (like Thermal Expansion, Mekanism, or Industrial Craft) there are significant advantages to converting the power created by a Rotarycraft solar tower into the form native to those mods. If you wanted to use Electricraft to store electrical energy and then use it to power a Mekanism block (for example), unless I’ve just missed something, you’d need to convert back into Rotarycraft power and then into RF. In short, the solutions potentially found in Electricraft are neither easier nor less expensive than those of these other mods’ power systems. But Electricraft isn’t intended to make things dramatically easier, but more complex, more realistic, and, ultimately, more fun for those who appreciate such things. Maybe this level of complexity isn’t for you, but if I were you I wouldn’t knock it until I’d tried it.