What is Alternative Energy?

Anything you can use to get work done that doesn’t involve the use of oil, gas, coal or damning up rivers is a step in the right direction for a ‘sustainable’ and earth friendly energy. To that end we will look at your options to going ‘off the grid‘ that will keep your household running even if the lights DO go out in Georgia.

We’ll cover sustainable, renewable alternative energies such as  Geothermal , Wind, Solar, Passive Solar Gain Technology and Design, Micro Hydro (moving water) to name a few, as well as their applications as in  Electric Vehicles, and any other systems we come across.

Image credits: Mark Sabbatini, Sayda, Alhadain

Recent alternative energy posts

Passive Solar Gain Technologies For a More Sustainable Home

Natural Heating and Cooling Through Alternative Architectural Design:

Passive Solar is a beautiful thing. The direct heat or light of the sun can be captured and utilized. Here are some designs that need only be placed in the direct line of the sun to get the job done.

Natural Heating:

Diagram illustrating Passive Solar Gain using the Sun and Architectural Design for a Sustainable HomeUtilizing the sun can go a long way to freely and efficiently heating your home during the daylight hours.  A building that is intentionally sited to Face the Southern Exposure taking into account the arc of the sun and the maximum exposure of daylight hours will enjoy Free Heating.  Removing any obstructions that prevent the sun light from touching your building is necessary to take advantage of this technique during the day.  So too is only planting deciduous trees and plants that drop their foliage in the winter months thus allowing sunlight to permeate through.

Likewise those same plants should grow leaves in the spring protecting the building from over exposure to the sun, hence Cooling the place down. Of course blinds and window dressings go a long way to controlling the heat (keeping it in or keeping it out) as needed.  Facing windows along the side of your building that faces south is a way of admitting light and heat into your space, but if you really want to take advantage…pair Passive Solar along with Thermal Mass for an outstanding combination.

Diagram of a Regular Earthship Design bermed into the hillside, using Passive Solar and Geo Thermal Principles for heating and cooling

A Perfect example of this is an Earthship aka Rammed Earth Tire Dwelling design.

We offer a more detailed Introductory Overview to Eartships.

Energy Storage Methods:

Thermal mass acts like a Battery storing the heat for release later on when the sun has gone down.  Considering we live in a time when people expect continuous 24/7 availability of energy this becomes an important feature. We can assist thermal mass by closing window dressings at night trapping the stored heat in the mass awhile longer.  So what passes for mass?  Cob, Stone Fireplaces/Floors, Water and Adobe are examples.  Usually mass is a very dense natural material that holds onto and retains the heat.  Make sure the sun ‘hits’ such a surface and you will enjoy the benefits of designing with passive solar in mind.

We offer a more detailed Introductory Overview to Cob, and Adobe.

Solar Furnace:

Take sunlight and combine it with a curved mirror that essentially reflects or concentrates light to a focal point raising the temperatures to some thing you don’t want to stick your hand in front of…and you have a solar furnace.  On an Industrial Scale this can be temperatures reaching as high as 3,500 °C (6,330 °F), and this heat in turn can be used to Generate Electricity or Melt Steel, make Hydrogen Fuel or give George Hamilton a rosy glow.

Solar Furnace in France, using Solar Concentators and Parabolic Mirrors, or Heiliostats, for Passive Solar Gain from the Sun for a renewable source of heat for Sustainability

The world’s largest Solar Furnace at Odeillo in the Pyrenees-Orientales in France can reach temperatures up to 3,500 °C (6,330 °F)

Solar Chimney:

Diagram of a Solar Chimney using Passive Solar Gain to create a Natural Cooling System for a Sustainable HomeSolar Chimney, TAS Model, using Passive Solar Gain to create a Natural Cooling System for a Sustainable Home

A Solar Chimney (or Thermal Chimney) is a Passive Solar Ventilation System composed of a vertical shaft connecting the interior and exterior of a building. As the chimney warms, the air inside is heated causing an updraft that pulls air through the building. Performance can be improved by using glazing and thermal mass materials in a way that mimics Greenhouses.

Image Credits: wikimedia, Jeffvail

Converting Solar Energy into Electricity

There is A LOT going on out there right now in the area of Solar Technology, especially since Peak Oil hit it’s peak. The race to find sustainable methods of meeting our energy demands around the planet is ON. Solar is one of a few Renewable Resources along with wind, wave, mechanical and bio-fuels. So long as there is sun we can utilize either its heat or its light to fulfill our energy needs. The solar market is shifting constantly with new innovations so we will explore some tried and true systems that have been on the market awhile for individual consumption, as well as emerging technologies stepping up to become power plants.

The ‘Zero’ Electric Motorcycle

Zero… The name of the new full on, fully functional road worthy electric motorcycle that goes from ‘Zero to 100’ clicks (km)/hour in just 5 seconds is aptly called, ‘Zero’. Die hard bike fans may not be impressed with its lack of moving mechanical parts or the fact that it won’t ‘ramp up’ due to…

Why go Geothermal?

Geothermal is a method of tapping into the constant and reliable earth temperatures as a means to heat or cool your buildings or your home.  In laymen terms a hole is dug deep down into the earth, and a pipe inserted to form a loop that comes back into your home allowing the transfer of…

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