Consumerism, Economics, Energy Systems, Global Dimming, Global Warming/Climate Change, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by Chris McLeod April 21, 2011
The series, A Solar Powered Life, is intended for those that have an interest in the generation and storage of electricity using solar panels. I’ve tried to write the series in such a way that it is accessible for everybody and not just for those that are technically minded. By the end of the series, if people have followed all of the parts, then they should walk away with a fair understanding of how a small scale independent solar power system works (in the real world), what components are required, and, even more importantly, why those components are required. This is pretty handy information.
I’m certainly not pushing products on anyone and solar power is certainly not for everybody. I also have no affiliations with any company or group etc. I am also discussing the limitations of solar electricity generation.
However, in discussing solar power, it is impossible to not touch upon current issues relating to energy in general. These issues impact all of us to a greater or lesser extent. There are many people that for a variety of reasons are highly sensitive to these issues and are highly critical of solar power. In fact it would be fair to say that some of the comments that I have received on the above-mentioned series are ideologically driven.Comments (58)
Consumerism, Energy Systems, peak oil — by Chris McLeod April 16, 2011
Editor’s Note: This is Part V of a series. To see all parts, click here.
Mick Jagger sang “I can’t get no satisfaction”, and that’s exactly what will happen if you use more than you produce in any renewable self sufficient system. It’s exactly the same for both energy or food as anyone who has worked towards self-sufficiency quickly realises. I know that even with my extensive and diverse orchard, a dozen vegetable beds and nine chickens, I wouldn’t want to have to eat only things produced on my farm as I’d eventually starve.
With a self-sufficient renewable energy system though you have no option but to live within your production means or somehow increase your production of energy. Living within your means may be something as simple as only running lights and a refrigerator rather than, say, having a computer running 24/7 for entertainment. You do get free power from the sun, wind or water but perhaps it’s not as much, or not delivered in the way that you are used to and it requires you to ultimately adapt your expectations.Comments (26)
Consumerism, Energy Systems, Health & Disease, Nuclear, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by I-SIS April 14, 2011
Fukushima is just one among many similar disasters waiting to happen worldwide; governments and regulators have systematically downplayed the risks and hidden the real costs of nuclear power; there is no place for nuclear in a truly green energy portfolio; furthermore, there is a lot we can do to put the nuclear genie back into the bottle.
A fully referenced and illustrated version of this report is posted on ISIS members website and is available for download here.
Nuclear crisis following earthquake & tsunami
On Friday 11 March 2011, Japan was hit by a magnitude 9 earthquake followed by a gigantic tsunami. The official toll by 6 April was 12 468 dead, and more than 15 000 missing , hundreds of thousands lost their homes, millions are still either without electricity or affected by shortages of electricity ; and most worrying of all, a nuclear disaster with no end in sight. The earthquake and tsunami were unstoppable, but was the nuclear disaster waiting to happen, and could it have been avoided?Comments (6)
Building, Energy Systems — by Max Vittrup Jensen April 8, 2011
The housing industry has slowly developed itself for a century or so in the cheap oil economy, and is now well-rooted and developed in the market and minds. As subsequent use of constructed buildings normally spans over long time intervals, it is historically a conservative area of the economy, and the field shows a great reluctance to change. This is true at each of its levels (producers, retailers, designers, consumers, etc.). This is especially true when changing means questioning the commonly accepted buildings practices, techniques and materials. In consequence, it is still oriented around cheap and easy to use products with little concern about the wider environmental impacts inherent with the longevity of its products.Comments (3)
Aid Projects, Building, Community Projects, Courses/Workshops, Demonstration Sites, Education Centres, Energy Systems — by Alex McCausland April 4, 2011
Editor’s Note: As many of you will have noticed, Alex has been making some great practical updates on the work going on at the Strawberry Fields Eco-Lodge. Below is yet another little update on the practical application of permaculture in southern Ethiopia. In addition to the Steve Cran Training of Trainers course, the PRI’s Rhamis Kent will be making a May 30 – June 11, 2011 Permaculture Design Certificate course at Strawberry Fields in Ethiopia. Both of these courses are worth some serious consideration.
Another structure we built in the last couple of weeks was a small cob-oven. This is a great thing for our project to save on fuel wood consumption and allow us to make more kinds of food, like pizzas as well as baking loaf-bread rather than only flat bread which we currently make.Comments (5)
Aid Projects, Community Projects, Courses/Workshops, Demonstration Sites, Education Centres, Energy Systems, Land, Processing & Food Preservation, Waste Systems & Recycling, Waste Water — by Alex McCausland April 1, 2011
Editor’s Note: As many of you will have noticed, Alex has been making some great practical updates on the work going on at the Strawberry Fields Eco-Lodge. The following article is another good example. I thought I’d mention that if you want to soak in some excellent experience at this site, Steve Cran will be leading a great course beginning July 1, 2011 that you might want to attend if you can.
The heat chimney for the solar fridge
The solar fridge is a new system which we have now managed to get set up after months of pondering, trying, adjusting, tweaking and trying again. We think we have finally got it kicking and pretty well integrated into the other functions of the kitchen area, so we can demonstrate permaculture principals with it pretty nicely.
The system is based on an old design for desert/dry-land cool storages which makes use of a heat chimney to create an up-draft which then sucks cool air in to the storage chamber from below. This air may pass through a long tunnel in its way to the storage chamber and hence be cooled by the ground on the way to the chamber. In order to enhance the cooling of the air on the way to the chamber, if possible, water, by evaporating will take in thermal energy, causing the temperature of the air to fall further. The main logistical issue to deal with, as usual, in building the system, was getting the theory to work in practice using available materials. Most of the construction work on this project was done by one of our long term volunteers, Duncan Colquin from Herefordshire, England, so a big thanks to him.Comments (4)
Consumerism, Energy Systems — by Chris McLeod March 28, 2011
Editor’s Note: This is Part IV of a series. To see all parts, click here.
Have you ever wondered why you don’t see many electrically powered motor vehicles on the roads, despite all the recent hype? Well, it’s because electricity has a dirty little secret: We have the technology to generate massive amounts of electricity, however storing those massive amounts of electricity for later use has been something of a problem that hasn’t yet been solved.Comments (14)
Consumerism, Energy Systems, peak oil — by Chris McLeod March 10, 2011
When the band Bananarama penned the ditty, “A cruel summer” back in 1983, I’m sure they must have been singing about solar power. Well, upon reflection, they probably weren’t. Anyway, it is an appropriate metaphor for solar power generation in the Macedon Ranges in Victoria and indeed elsewhere across the country for this summer given the La Nina influence on our weather. In the article A Solar Powered Life – part II, I wrote about how many solar panels you would need in order to generate your average electricity requirements. These were all based on a best case scenario which is rarely achieved in the real world. Not to fear though, as solar power has plenty to offer people even in less than perfect conditions.
Solar panels are affected by all sorts of factors in the real world. Usually, anything that affects the performance of a solar panel will tend to reduce its electrical output, so it’s worth understanding these factors so that you can set-up your solar panels so that they provide the best possible output.Comments (21)
Building, Courses/Workshops, Energy Systems, Land, Retrofitting, Waste Systems & Recycling — by Geoff Lawton March 3, 2011
Melbourne PDC Design
Photo © Craig Mackintosh
It is standard format, in the PDC curriculum, that students are given an exercise to design a landscape with a design brief so they can make the move into design while being mentored by their Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) teacher. This is not a test but an exercise, enabling students to make the first step into design while still taking part in the PDC program.
During the 72-hour course students receive a body of diverse knowledge which, despite covering a number of disciplines and emphasising the connectivity between those disciplines, can seem surprisingly simplistic and easy to understand until students are put into design groups and given a challenge to design an area of landscape with a design brief. If the brief is likely to be a real life scenario then the possibilities expand and the design system complicates itself into innumerable choices of interactive complexity.Comments (17)
Consumerism, Energy Systems — by Chris McLeod March 2, 2011
In case you hadn’t realised it, I’m a big fan of renewable energy systems. In the article A Solar Powered Life – Part I I gave an introduction to both grid connected solar power systems and off-grid (or standalone) solar power systems and described some of the differences between the two.
In this article I will cover some of the common questions that I am asked by people and look at how the off-grid solar power system at PRI’s Zaytuna Farm conforms with the three ethics of permaculture.
One of the questions I am often asked by people is:
How many solar panels do I need to buy and install in order to cover my daily electricity usage?
This depends on how much electricity the household uses on average every day. In Australia, as I covered in my last article, various sources state that the average electricity used per household varies from around 15kWh (kilowatt hours) per day to about 20kWh per day (Wikipedia gives a figure of 24kWh per day for US average daily household consumption (1)).
This is the equivalent of a household having 10 x 100W (Watt) incandescent light bulbs switched on for between 15 and 20 hours per day every day of the year.
Being an optimist, I’ll use the best case average electricity usage of 15kWh per day, to determine the number of solar panels that you would require.Comments (17)
Building, Energy Systems, Land, Waste Systems & Recycling — by Kim Hayes February 28, 2011
How can architects build a new world of sustainable beauty? By learning from nature. At TEDSalon in London, Michael Pawlyn describes three habits of nature that could transform architecture and society: radical resource efficiency, closed loops, and drawing energy from the sun. — TED
Building, Consumerism, Energy Systems, Urban Projects, peak oil — by Chris McLeod February 21, 2011
Photo of the house showing some of the solar panels and solar hot water system
I was happy to read that Zaytuna Farm had installed an off grid solar power system for their electrical requirements — “Advanced Solar, and independence, at PRI’s Zaytuna Farm”. However, upon reading the comments relating to this, I could see that there was quite a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation relating to solar power. This inspired me to write a series of articles covering pretty much all things solar power, what it’s all about and how it works.
My solar power knowledge is comprehensive and growing all the time. This is because I live in the Macedon Ranges in Victoria in a house I built myself which has an off grid solar power system. Having a mild dose of technical geekiness (although this is not necessarily a prerequisite!), I obtained and installed all of the components myself . This system now provides all of the electrical needs of the house. I received no government subsidies or RECs (Renewable Energy Certificates) in the process (because it was cheaper not too) and maintained electrical compliance and Australian standards relating to the power system.Comments (19)
Animal Forage, Commercial Farm Projects, Economics, Energy Systems, Financial Management, Gabions, Land, Livestock, Plant Systems, Swales, Waste Systems & Recycling, Working Animals — by Nick Huggins February 16, 2011
I want to share with you a few things about a permaculture design project I finished in late October 2010. Details of the design, some details of working with clients on design projects, basic costing and what to be aware of when doing so. I also outline how I put the project together and what it included.Comments (14)
Energy Systems, peak oil — by Geoff Lawton February 12, 2011
Zaytuna Farm, home of the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia, sets up an advanced solar electric system to demonstrate the best example of stand-alone solar electric power we can find.
Here at Zaytuna Farm we have endeavored to demonstrate the efficiency and advantage of a stand alone power system. This is especially relevant now in times when large areas of Australia, and elsewhere, for that matter, have been flooded. Everyone that has solar/electric feedback to the grid still loses their power if the main grid goes down. We provide our own power and we store our own energy, and, although we could, we don’t feed back to the main grid because that just props up an inefficient system that runs on a very large amount of over-supplied fossil fuel power, or some other type of unsustainable energy system.Comments (27)
Building, Energy Systems, Food Plants - Annual, Nurseries & Propogation, Urban Projects — by Rob Avis February 11, 2011
by Rob Avis
We live and garden on an urban lot in Calgary, Canada, located on the 51st parallel north and approximately 80 km east of the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies. This northern climate presents many design challenges, including less than one hundred frost-free days, an annual mean temperature of 4.1 degrees Celsius and summer cyclonic weather patterns (i.e. high risk of hail). We are also considered to be a moderate temperate desert as our precipitation is around 500mm including snow. However, one of the advantages of growing food up north is the long summer days. There is no better place to observe this than in Alaska which also has an average of 100 frost free days but is renown for growing the largest vegetables in the world. Also, despite being cold in the winter, it is rarely overcast and we enjoy mostly sunny days. These two factors combined result in Calgary having nearly the same solar potential as Florida.Comments (21)