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Solar Panels for Camping Comfort!

I have just returned from a weekend away camping. Generally the question is, do I choose a powered or unpowered site? However, we now have another option. Solar panels with solar power! Now all I have to do is take my solar panels with me and I can be totally independent! So we took off to the great Australian bush, freed from power restrictions.

The camping area at Wee Jasper in south-east NSW, is fairly primative but with two solar panels lying flat attached to the roof of the vehicle and an extra panel propped up by a chair following the sun, (which I had to manually move),  I had all the power I needed. So, before and after our walking trecks I could check my email and touch base with my websites without worrying about the battery running flat. 

Obviously, the key to effective use of solar power is being able to use that power after the sun has gone down. Two heavy duty batteries each weighing approximately 35kg,  was all it took, which was easy for my van to cope with, it is only the same weight of another adult in the back. This gave us more than enough power for lights and computer for the night as well as power for a range of adaptors to recharge mobile phones, torch batteries and ipod.

Camping in remote areas is designed to take you away from all the modern conveniences, but my wife would probably refuse to go if she couldn’t be guaranteed access to her computer! The nights did get fairly chilly, and the solar power was not quite enough to power a heater, so we had to rely on a campfire to keep us warm. I think that was more fun anyway! In short, this holiday allowed us to use the best of both worlds…. enjoying the peace and beauty of the outdoor lifestyle and the convenciences of a computer and watching a movie.

No matter how much power I collect in my solar panels, it cannot replace the warmth of an open fire in the cold of the evening.

Solar Energy History Facts

From earliest recorded history Solar power has been important. The ancient Egyptians (and other ancient cultures) worshiped the sun as the ultimate source of power, and so who are we to challenge the concept. They were able to use solar energy to bake clay brick and build temples that stood for thousands of years. In fact over the last two or three  thousand years we have more and more reasons to recognise it’s power over our lives. The trick, as always, is how to use that power wisely.

Leonardo daVinci in the 15th century also recognised the power of the sun and with a series of concave mirrors was able to focus the solar energy on a cooking pot and boil water. Five hundred years later we know you can do things like that but lack the patience and the inventive genius to actually do it!

In 1838 Edmund Becquerel recognised that some materials were able to turn sunlight into energy, and though he published his findings nobody was particularly interested. A few others played with these ideas but it was not till 1921 when Albert Einstein published his theories on photoelectric effect and was awarded the Nobel prize that many people even noticed its possibilities.

The fact is if it wasn’t for the need to power satellites it may have been entirely forgotten! The research into how to power the Vanguard 1 satellite in 1958 resulted in some quantum leaps forward for Photovoltaic cells (PV cells) and these cells have continued to be a part of satellite programs ever since.

During the 1970’s there was another surge forward when the manufacturing costs dropped from about $100 per watt to a mere $20 per watt, and this resulted in making them much more available for a range of new applications such as railroad and road warning signs, lighthouses and warning buoys.

During the last 15 to 20 years the price of PV cells has continued to fall and the efficiency has continued to increase, making them much more available to ordinary citizens to power holiday homes and other locations that did not have access to the national power grid. The most recent development has been the tax incentives offered by many governments to encourage domestic premises to install Solar panels with the excess production being fed back into the commercial grid.

Yet for all that, solar energy technology produces less than one tenth of one percent of global energy demand! Yes, we have made some great progress but here is still a long way to go.

So, where to from here? Solar energy facts are good to know, an important first step, but we also need to act on this information.

Shell Oil predicts that by mid century, up to 30% of the world’s energy could come from renewable sources. However, that will not just happen we will have to make it happen by accepting some short term pain to get that long term gain.  What are you prepared to do to help?

This ebook, GREEN ENERGY 101, is an excellent resource for those who are interested in learning more about alternative energy. This e-book explains alternative energy systems, going into detail the different types of alternative energy available and what systems are available to homeowners as well as their advantages and disadvantages. Well worth reading!

Solar Energy Advantages and Global Footprints.

As the humanitarian emergency response to the floods in Pakistan takes shape, and with some of my friends from Australia involved, we can’t help but ask “Why are these things happening?”

The fact is, it is not just devastating floods in Pakistan, but a whole range of related natural disasters which also seem to be connected with uncharacteristically hot weather and fires in Russia, mudslides in China, melting ice shelf, increasing hurricanes an cyclones.  There are some who would link this to global warming, deforestation and the increasing levels of greenhouse gasses.

Yet the reality is that thousands have died, millions are displaced and threatened with a whole range of diseases as a result. Time is running out and now is the time to reassess our role in these disasters and seek alternative energy sources which will promote health and healing of our planet rather than continue to destroy it through indiscriminate use of dirty power sources based on carbon fuels.

Wind Turbines using Energy from Alternative Power Sources

Last week while traveling from  Sydney to Canberra (the national capital of Australia) I stopped for morning tea at Lake George and was amazed to find what looked like hundreds of wind turbines on the other side of the lake. These alternative energy generators were not there last time I went past so this must be a fairly new wind farm. In fact when I did some research I found that this area has become very popular for wind farms having several in that part of the state, with many others in the planning stage.

Yet for all this development and growth in this sector of the power industry, wind power still accounts for less than 1% of power production. Obviously we have a long way to go! The political spin doctors may be making grand plans to increase this to 25% by 2020 using a range of renewable energy technologies but I have my doubts as to how committed they are. The coal industry still holds too much power.

However, the current push for ordinary home owners like me to invest in solar panels for my roof, with the power being fed into the state grid is an indication that this state government is at least trying to get with the program and seeking some alternative energy solutions. Quite frankly it seems to me that it is only as ordinary citizens and home owners take some initiatives that governments will be shamed into doing more. Industry is becoming more aware of these issues, yet the demand to increase profit margins means many are only giving lip service to adopting cleaner, greener more energy efficient practices.

Together we must make a stand by doing what we can, starting in small ways such as investing in solar panels, purchasing more energy efficient appliances and adopting better usage practices. Only then will we have the credibility to influence governments and industry.

Are Alternative Energy Solutions A Priority?

In my reading this week I learnt that America accounts for almost 25% of world energy consumption with just 5% of the global population.  The fact is there are billions of people who have absolutely no access to any electricity at all! In recent years there has been a lot of talk but very little progress in addressing these facts, and it seems that pursuing cheap alternative energy solutions must become a high priority.

Even leading petroleum procedures such as Shell, now admit that by 2040 more than 50% of the world’s energy will need to come from renewable resources.  (Thanks for these Solar Energy Facts) The technology is already available, tried and tested but it is ordinary people like us who have got to get involved if this is going to happen. It is no use relying on politicians because they can only see the implications for their term – not 30 years ahead!

What is my response? I now live in a house designed to effectively use solar energy to heat my house in winter and keep it cool in summer. I am getting a series of solar panels attached to my roof, as well as investigating the possibility of getting a wind turbine as well.

This is a start. Yet, what the world needs is a preparedness of those who have these resources to share them with those who don’t. That change of attitude is the key to the survival of all of us.