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Say that an apocalyptic even takes place, a genetic disease wiping out most of humanity in a matter of years. So, there are no bombs, nuclear winter, or any sort of event that messes up the environment.

60 years have passed after the event.

Leftover people live in small independent settlements, several hundred people most, self sustaining, growing crops and animals, fishing, hunting the abundant wildlife. Cities are overgrown and deserted.

There is no organized industry, mining, any sort of government, etc. Scavenging the ruins is the only possibility of getting certain resources.

Technology and knowledge is not lost. There are books to be found on a lot of subjects (chemistry, engineering, physics...), manuals, even knowledge is passed down.

The QUESTION is - would it be possible that those small settlements produce electricity, and, how would they do it? One thing is to make a wind or water turbine, but how would they store the energy (electricity)?

Maybe its better to ask how would they make batteries for storing electricity? Functioning light bulbs? Only with the materials they can get from scavenging the ruins.

Take in consideration that most of the stuff made by a pre-end society has decayed in 60 years time. They can't just find a car battery or a light bulb, connect it to an energy source and voila! Or can they?

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  • $\begingroup$ There are plenty of wind turbines and so on out there, which could be scavenged. Small hydro generators are rarer, but not that hard to build. LED lights should last quite a long time if not used, so could be scavenged from the ruins. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Mar 12 '18 at 1:40
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf scavenged from the ruins after 60 years of sitting there? You sure they wouldn't just rust or just... u know, die? stop working? $\endgroup$ – Bora Mar 12 '18 at 2:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Bora The machines themselves maybe, but a generator is really just some conductor and magnets and a simple moving part. The conductors and magnets would probably survive and be salvageable and the moving parts your people should be able to build. Then such get something to rotate them and you have electricity. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Mar 12 '18 at 2:27
  • $\begingroup$ What do these not-ignorant-scavengers plan to do with all this stored energy? $\endgroup$ – user535733 Mar 12 '18 at 4:34
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    $\begingroup$ What prevents the people from restarting industry and mining? I would think that if I was among the survivors of an apocalypse, about the first thing I'd want to do would be to get industry running again. Obviously on a smaller scale then before if 90% of the population is wiped out, but something. $\endgroup$ – Jay Mar 12 '18 at 18:13
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Firs things first. Yes, the batteries charged 60 years ago would by just junk. They could salvage parts from it but not use as designed. Same as you can't charge fully depleted car battery.

BUT batteries not charged for the first time or with not started chemical reaction could be used. Or you could make your own battery. Here is (in Polish) a quick guide on how to make such battery. The article (and whole magazine) is targeted to teenagers so it's so simple a child could do it. Young Technic battery maker

Light bulbs would still work after 60 years. We have light bulb that have been WORKING for 117 years. Centennial Light Bulb.
In the modern ones you even can switch bases so you can use it on E14, E27 or halogen nodes.
Led and Halogen are even more robust as their dome is harder to break.

My main concern in those types of setting is "Why would they need the electricity?". You see, the longer light cycle needed for work was created from industrialization need. To operate cow udders you don't even need to see them. Just find the head, go down and in back (check if it's not a bull).
To operate milling machine at 6 o clock in the winter you need some good source of light.

Yes, of course, people in rural areas use lighbulbs and electricity but it's kind of spin-off of industrial production.

Just imagine that this "post-apo" is just XIX century with a sprinkle of repossessed vehicles.

In Polish we have this saying

Going to sleep with chickens

Which means that you go to sleep at the dusk because you don't need to do much things in dark. Apart from milking the cows in the early morning. But the cows will wake you up and you just need a knot and some fat to make a lantern.

In the 1930's in Poland most villages and rural area were not electrified. My grand grandparents used tallow lamp because kerosene was to expensive.

So the main question would be why they want to have electricy and now how they would make it (because you can make it with wool and amber).

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  • $\begingroup$ Hey thank you for the reply! Well, my thought is, when you have big and mean predators lurking around the settlement, light in the night is welcoming :) Wanted to create a world with a somehow mixed technology. Hence thought, give them power of electricty. $\endgroup$ – Bora Mar 12 '18 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Bora Again, your world design would need to explain why electric light is better than natural gas light or one made by fires keep up by watch. From logistic point of view it's easier to just gather wood and keep it lit than to produce and store electricy who then you need to output in some way. $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Mar 12 '18 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ Well, for natural gas - theres none, as industry is non-existing, and for fires, well, takes up way too much firewood to have several fires all night long, plus electricity gives way more luminosity then firelight. $\endgroup$ – Bora Mar 12 '18 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Bora Natural gas as in methane from manure. extension2.missouri.edu/g1881 Again, for specific luminosity you can calculate needed light source, kHw it would need and then transpose it to needed power output. and then relate it to ease of producing it vs. gathering woods. $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Mar 12 '18 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ also, electric fence? $\endgroup$ – Bora Mar 12 '18 at 16:00
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I'm going to take advantage of the fact that you've asked about ENERGY storage and not ELECTRICITY storage by saying that perhaps the best way to handle this is to store the kinetic energy you generate first, and then feed it into an electric generator in a controlled manner that supports your electrical grid.

To do this, you need Flywheels. These devices allow you to store the kinetic energy you create via rotational momentum, and then feed it back into a generator (or mill, or pump, etc.) as you need it. Before you get to lead acid batteries and the like, this may be one of the simplest ways to store energy for use around your new environment.

Remember, just because technology isn't lost, doesn't mean that your access to resources has also been preserved. electricity is relatively simple to make, but takes specific resources to build storage devices like batteries. Rotational kinetic energy on the other hand is VERY easy to create, and requires less specific resources to 'store'. That said, the lead acid battery is more effective than a flywheel at preserving energy over a longer period of time unless you've built something very fancy in terms of flywheel technology.

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    $\begingroup$ Flywheels are tricky even with current tech base, the Romans could have build dams for stored hydro. They did it for irrigation and aqueducts, after all. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Mar 12 '18 at 2:30
  • $\begingroup$ Good point @VilleNiemi, the only concern I see with it is defending a fixed location with a water reservoir from competitors. Still, if you could do that, this would seem to be a more effective way of storing the energy. Literally let gravity do all the work. $\endgroup$ – Tim B II Mar 12 '18 at 2:33
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Windmill and water tower.

Here is a time tested way to store the energy you generate. Store it as kinetic energy by raising water.

windmill and water tower https://www.pinterest.com/pin/475763148113695491/

Then when you want electricity, let the downflowing water turn a generator.

http://www.micro-hydro-power.com/micro-hydro-power-Stream-Line-Kenya.htm microhydropower

During the Bosnia war, the populace of the besieged city Gorzade made little homebrew electrical generators out of electrical appliances and tethered them in the river. I have always wanted to see a picture of those and I found one. It must be purchased but here is a link to look.

http://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-war-in-ex-yugoslavia-emergency-electric-power-generators-set-by-gorazde-89327869.html

One could make a homebrew generator like these out of any old electrical applicance that has intact copper windings and the ability to turn. Hook it to your water tower. You have electricity.

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It really depends on what you use the electricity for. Lights can come from lamps. Water can be gravity fed. Hot water from wood or solar.

Many people today live without electricity so why do they need electricity? What are they using it for?

Simple lead acid batteries are easy to construct to store it. Whilst car batteries have degraded, the old lead could be smelted down and new batteries made.

Simple generators can be made from copper wire and powered by wind, water or even human power.

Radio communication is the most obvious use for electricity I can think of.

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  • $\begingroup$ In the settings I am creating they need electricity for lights, protection, pumps, etc. Lets just say that i want the settlements to have electricity. I know generators are fairly simple thing to make for someone who knows the materia. The bigger question is, after 60 years, will they be able to make batteries to store that electricity in? I do not know chemistry well, thats why i need help :) $\endgroup$ – Bora Mar 12 '18 at 2:26
  • $\begingroup$ Batteries are far simpler to build than generators. Ancient Egyptians had simple batteries $\endgroup$ – Thorne Mar 12 '18 at 3:10
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Aqua power is going to be the easiest to harness, especially with the (Personal opinion: Ridiculous) restriction of no mining.

Without any organized industry (Opinion the same as the above), you can't make anything remotely like a steam engine or internal combustion engine. They're just too complex and require tools and equipment that can only be had by industry.

I'm not sure you could get electric lighting without industry, as incandescent light bulbs require the filament to be in a vacuum - And without industry, a vacuum is hard to make. Not to mention, without industry you can't really have the glass for the bulbs either.

Tim B II has a good method for storing the energy, which can work for even non-electrical things - Smothing out the gearing of a water mill to provide constant power for things like looms or grain grinding. Lead-acid batteries, as mentioned by Thorne, are also fairly easy to make.

Thorne also mentions Radio. Basic radio is possible, but would require, again, some amount of industry.

I would recommend that you allow a small place to have some industry, some mining, etc. In one of your other questions, you mentioned a University as maintaining knowledge. They would also be the prime location for small amounts of industry - As they know how to make things, how to maintain them, and as you've mentioned they can and do trade out knowledge of things, they could also be the source of things like radios and electric lights.

Additionally, small industry of the sort you would need is fairly straightforward to accomplish, especially given your time frame. A University will have many, many experts on many things - And, more importantly, it'll have exactly what is needed to learn about other things. A bio-plague is also more gradual, so it could have started on the opposite side of the world. It wouldn't take much of a leap for someone at the University to think "Hey, we're going to need to hoard these tools" and "We're going to need to make X, Y, and Z." There's also the fact that, at 60 years post-apocalypse, you can even have some people still around that were young (20-30s) when the apocalypse happened. Old Greg might be 80, but he's the one that set up the light bulb factory and still makes the best ones.

Also, to address whether things can be found and be functional after 60 years: This is all based on my expectations and basic knowledge, and not on any research, but the primary killer of incandescent light bulbs, and a lot of other technology, is vibration. The lights in the ovens at work are constantly dieing because they're right inside the door, on the latch side. A different store has ovens largely identical, except the lights are on the hinge side. Those lights last significantly longer than ours. How is this relevant? Well, it goes back to how your apocalypse happened. Meteor impact? Lots of vibration. Tsunami? Vibration. And water. Bad for tech. Nukes? Vibration and radiation, both bad for tech. And that's not even counting the EMP. Yours? Well, it's a bio-plague. Significantly less vibration caused in specific areas means things are more recoverable.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hey! Thank you for checking my other questions too! University would indeed have the specialists on that, and yes, i thought that they would produce things like that, but i came up with questions - even with the knowledge, without the stable resources (as provided in modern world by mining, laboratories and so on), would it be able to make various things, in this case lightbulbs and batteries. $\endgroup$ – Bora Mar 12 '18 at 2:35
  • $\begingroup$ You'd need some mining to get the rarer materials, such as mercury. Platinum is also one of the prime ingredients for early lightbulbs, although the filament itself is carbon (From bamboo was one of the longest-lasting). I don't think what you want is workable without industry, although it wouldn't take a lot of it. A single location - such as your University - would be able to supply itself and a small number of small locations. I don't know if it would be truly sustainable past 60 years, but that's beyond the scope of your story. $\endgroup$ – Andon Mar 12 '18 at 2:43
  • $\begingroup$ Your best bet for lighting would probably be harvesting LEDs. They don't really fail or go anywhere, and there are probably dozens in the average dwelling. After an Apocalypse, just loot them from wherever you find them, rig up a DC circuit with a suitable resistor and Voila. $\endgroup$ – Matt Bowyer Mar 12 '18 at 15:51
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Why couldn't some relatively industrious people decide to settle in/on a hydro electric station? Some of the local maintenance and operational personnel survived and taught their progeny how to fix and run the thing. Those turbines last for DECADES, and they only need to run one of the generator stations to serve their needs, the other 3 or 4 generators and turbines could be taken apart for replacement parts to keep the one sluice they are running operational. After things get more figured out and organized in follow on decades they could export their excess power to nearby settlements in exchange for resources (even just one turbine running would produce waaaaaay more power than they could ever need).

It would be a heavily protected and fortified settlement on top of and inside the dam with access to both water and power, and pretty much could charge anything they wanted from anyone else in the region to export power.

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  • $\begingroup$ yes, in the setting i am creating, there is that kind of a dam and indeed people live there. But getting that electricity to a secluded settlement in a middle of a mountain is impossible, without the whole infrastructure (power cables, people maintaining it, etc). And that's why im asking if they can make batteries for storage by themselves. $\endgroup$ – Bora Mar 12 '18 at 2:20
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    $\begingroup$ Easily, you just need lead plates, something acidic, and something non-conductive to separate the plates. If your survivors built big acid tanks filled with an acidic solution and used big plates of lead separated by sheets of something non-conductive they could pretty easily build battery banks capable of storing several days worth of power at a time. They would just need to monitor the PH and change out the lead plates every now and then. $\endgroup$ – TCAT117 Mar 12 '18 at 2:26
  • $\begingroup$ Okey! And all of those things (mats), they can find by scavenging the ruins, 60 years after "the end"? lead i know, but, acidic solutions? $\endgroup$ – Bora Mar 12 '18 at 2:29
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    $\begingroup$ Sulfuric acid is pretty easy to make, various alchemists and tinkerer's have been producing it in some form or another since the Sumerian times, and hit useful industrial purity levels in the 1750's. $\endgroup$ – TCAT117 Mar 12 '18 at 2:35
  • $\begingroup$ the turbines in hydroelectric facilities don't last very long. They are being ground down by sand and the like in the water. I doubt there will be anything left of the original turbines after 60 years. $\endgroup$ – Burki Mar 12 '18 at 9:22
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If you only want light, check out gravity lamps: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GravityLight

They were specifically made to replace kerosene lamps in third world countries and work by having a ballast fall (slowly) to power a generator which then powers a led.

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