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.
As I ponder the debate of alternative energy solutions and the pros and cons of alternative energy, I keep coming back to the fact that it is not just about energy but lifestyle. Every lifestyle choice we make affects our energy usage.
Take for instance the choices we make concerning what we eat. Have you ever considered how much energy is consumed transporting fruit and vegetables? We take for granted that there will always be fresh produce available and if things are out of season we can still buy them because they are imported from overseas… but at what cost to the environment? It seems to me that this system is both inefficient (energy-wise) and wasteful due to the amount of spoilage at the end of the supply chain. The fact is, if the produce does not look good it never even gets to the shelf!
So what is the answer? Become more self sufficient and less choosy! This is a new area for me but I believe that we all have to start somewhere. I have a standard quarter acre suburban block but instead of just growing grass I have started to grow some of my own fruit and veges. I have had some success with a few basics like pumpkins (which require a bit of space) and tomatoes (both cherry tomatoes and standard ones). I am now trying to get a herb garden going and a few fruit trees established. I am hoping to harvest my first apples soon, and I have some figs coming on as well.
So, instead of using my limited water supply (and grey water) trying to keep the grass green, I am now producing at least some of my own food. OK, I still have a long way to go, but at least it is a start.
I also found that we have a local farmers produce market some weekends, which costs less than the supermarket, is fresher and though it may not always look as good, it sure reduces drastically the amount of energy used in the supply chain! Therefore in energy terms, growing your own fruit and vegetables is another excellent alternative energy solution in assisting in preserving our environment.
It is a worthwhile saving and better for all in the long term.
In the current financial climate people are even more interested in regaining their independence from the huge corporations who seem to have nothing better to do than keep putting up the price of electricity and gas. Utility companies seem to be pretty close to the top of the list. If you’ve ever wondered what the advantages of wind energy are and if you can get off grid by using alternative energy sources, then read on.
Everyone has probably heard about solar power and wind power, but the question is are they enough to generate all the electricity your home needs? Well, that depends…
It depends on which you choose: solar, wind, or a combination of both. For most people a few solar panels or one wind turbine won’t be enough to generate all the electricity you will need for your home use.
You could use a combination of solar and wind. If you don’t want to do that your best bet would probably be focusing on wind power. A small wind turbine will usually generate about 5 times what one solar panel will generate. Of course, you have to take into consideration where you live among other factors.
The drawback for solar panels is that they can only work during the day, but they have proven to be very good at heating water. A turbine, on the other hand, can work whenever there is wind, day or night which can then be utilised in a wide range of applications.
Solar hot water services have proved to be very dependable but are expensive to buy. However, you can build your own turbine in a week for a few hundred dollars with materials you can buy at the local hardware store. These modern turbines can be mounted on your roof or in your yard depending on the best place to catch the wind.
If you really want to be as free as possible from your utility company your best bet would be to combine both solar and wind power and/or build several turbines if you have the space. Just keep in mind that one solar panel or one wind turbine won’t do it on it’s own, but it’s a good start.
If you are looking for an instant downloadable product, GREEN ENERGY 101 is an excellent ebook containing easy to understand information on different types of alternative energy systems that are available to homeowners. It goes through the advantages and disadvantages covering the basic concepts of solar and wind power. Highly recommended reading.
I have to admit that even though the evidence has been mounting up over the last 20 years I have been slow to accept the fact that I have contributed to the current world environmental crisis. I am part of the western world that uses far more power, water and other resources per capita than is equitable! I have also come to realise that as a Christian I have a God given responsibility to protect this world and be a good steward of those limited resources. Sadly, history shows that the western church has been a willing partner in exploiting and destroying the environment and is strangely silent in this current debate.
It seems to me that the message of the Bible is that injustice makes God angry, and that when nature is in pain He takes notice! God is on the side of the powerless and downtrodden and He expects us to be accountable for what we have done with what He has given us. Just like my mother expected me to tidy up the mess in my room , so too I believe that God expects us to do something about the mess we have made in the world and adjust the current inequitable distribution of resources.
The key to all this is knowing where to start! Most of us get overwhelmed because it seems too hard, but here are three things that we can all do:
- Reduce! If we would all stop and reassess the difference between what we want and what we need, we would probably be able to reduce both what we buy and what we use. That would in turn reduce our consumption of resources and power! Do we really need all those things that the media is telling us are essential?
- Reuse! What we need to recognise is that we have grown up to be a throw-away society, yet we can choose to buy a reusable bag and NOT to accept and use a plastic one. Our landfill tips are full of things that could have been reused, but in our affluent western culture we just don’t bother, we buy a new one. Stand against this trend and be different.
- Recycle! We are getting better at this but we still have a long way to go. With just a little effort on our part we can recycle all the aluminum, steel, paper, glass and some plastics we use – this will reduce consumption of raw materials. By choosing recyclable items over non-recyclable we can all do our part for the environment.
Acting on these simple recycle facts will help reduce our carbon footprint, our power consumption and our waste, with the result that we will have a healthier and more equitable world. You’ve got to be happy with that!
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!