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    The Pros & Cons Of Renewable Energy

    How to decide which option is best for your home (or business)
    by Samantha Biggers

    Monday, March 1, 2021, 7:53 AM

After the crisis in Texas, sustainable energy is all over the news.

Over the years, my husband and I have relied on solar power for our lighting and for powering farm equipment on areas of our property where standard power isn’t available.

While I in no way claim to be any kind of professional expert on renewable energy, I have studied it a fair amount over the years. I earned my degree in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Sustainable Forestry in 2005. Renewable energy is more affordable and accessible to the average person than it was back then.

And despite my major, I’ve always tried to look at any aspect of environmentalism from a realistic standpoint. Those championing it can sometimes go too far in their claims, and the topic often becomes mired in emotion rather than facts.

If you’re planning on boosting your energy mix more towards renewables, it’s important to realize that there is no free lunch. Renewable energy is great, but it has its limitations and costs. We cannot ignore those if we want to use renewable resources wisely.

This article will help you weigh the positives and negatives of different renewable energy sources so that you can make the best choice for your home or business. After reading this, you may even decide that several methods combined are best for you.

By making informed renewable energy choices from the beginning, you’ll save a lot of time, money, and frustration.

Since renewable energy options is a big topic to cover in a single article, I’ve included a number of links within where you can gain even more detailed information on the finer points.

And for those looking for specific direction on the most effective ways to conserve and generate power in your own home, I can’t recommend enough Peak Prosperity’s Guide To Home Energy — it is a veritable treasure-trove of practical guidance.

Solar

Pros

  • Solar panels are inexpensive. The cost of solar panels dropped dramatically around 2010. My husband and I were working on our house and had just purchased two panels for around $900. Within a few months, the price for the same wattage of panels had dropped to under $450. I recently bought an American-made panel for $1.00 a watt.
  • Subsidy programs and tax rebates add additional financial incentives. More people than ever are taking advantage of these incentives.
  • You don’t have to go 100% solar right away. You can buy a panel and a power center and get started for under $500, and have at least some backup power during a short emergency. You can add more as you can afford it.
  • Many people build DIY solar setups and save a ton on installation and setup costs.

Cons

  • Only generates power when there is sunlight. If you have a few cloudy days, you may not have enough power to meet your needs unless you have a lot of battery storage.
  • Solar panels produce no power at night, so you must have enough battery storage to meet your needs when they’re no available sunlight.

Determining If Your Area and Site Is Suitable

  • How many hours of high sunlight do you get per day? How much does this number go down in the winter months?
  • If you live in a mountainous area, does your property lie down in a dark spot or face North? I live at 3000 feet on a mountain in western North Carolina on land that faces South. Solar works well for us, but there are properties within a few miles that face North or are down in a dark valley where solar doesn’t work well despite how sunny our climate is overall.

Resources For More Information

Wind

Pros

  • Small turbines are affordable and easy to set up.
  • Can generate power at times and in areas where solar is not possible. Solar panels don’t produce energy at night. A steady night wind means you’re making power. Turbines are great in areas where winds are common and steady, but sunlight hours are limited.

Cons

  • Only works where winds are regular and steady
  • Wind turbines are aesthetically unpleasing. In some areas, they are illegal to install because people think they will harm tourism or property values.
  • Storms can severely damage wind turbines.
  • They stop working if too much ice accumulates on blades.
  • If there’s no wind, you have to rely on whatever power you’ve already generated and stored in batteries.
  • When wind power is used for larger populations, transmission lines must be built and maintained. Large wind turbines are often placed quite far from the people they serve. The further the power has to travel, the greater the energy loss.
  • Large wind turbine farms require vast tracts of land. If it’s more profitable for a landowner to use the property for other purposes, it’s challenging to convince them to invest in wind power.
  • Batteries are necessary if you want to store power for use when there’s no wind. Battery costs can add up and they have a limited lifespan.

Determining If Your Area and Site Is Suitable

  • Do you have reliable and steady winds?
  • Are wind turbines legal in your community? If so, are there size limitations or other requirements?
  • What’s the overall risk of a catastrophic storm? Are you comfortable with the risk of potentially costly repairs or replacement?
  • Have you seen evidence that anyone in your area has successfully used wind turbines to generate acceptable amounts of electricity for the amount of money invested? (this is a good sanity-check before purchasing your own wind system)

Resources For More Information

Hydroelectric

Pros

  • Water is reliable in areas that aren’t prone to drought.
  • Hydro is capable of producing steady power day and night.
  • You can estimate what you’ll produce accurately, unlike wind or solar, where there is significant variability based on weather patterns.
  • Microhydro systems can work effectively for home energy production even in quite small streams.
  • Small hydroelectric turbines and water wheels look better than solar panels and windmills.

Cons

  • It makes it more difficult for native fish to spawn and replenish their populations.
  • Larger installations can be an eyesore in an otherwise pristine area.
  • Illegal in some areas. On the Western Coast of the USA, the local utility companies monopolize hydroelectric power generation. You may own your property but not the underlying water rights.
  • Damming a waterway can be dangerous and illegal too.
  • Requires a steady stream with enough “drop” or waterfall effect to produce power.

Determining If Your Area and Site Is Suitable

  • Does your stream have enough “drop” to use a turbine? If not, can you legally make the necessary changes for a reasonable cost?
  • Do you own the water rights on your property? Does your local utility company have any special rights that override yours?
  • Is your waterway prone to flash floods?

Resources For More Information

The Dirty Truth About Electric Cars

While many are enthusiastic about replacing fossil fuel-burning vehicles with electric ones, the reality is that electric cars are not as environmentally-friendly as we’re encouraged to believe.

I’m not discouraging folks from driving them. But if we were to magically replace our entire fleet of internal combustion engine cars with all-electric ones overnight, it wouldn’t solve our fossil fuel addiction.

Let’s start with just the raw electricity required to power electric cars. How is that electricity produced?

Here’s the breakdown of  the US electricity generation statistics for 2019, the most current data available from the US Energy Information Association:

US electricity generation by source

Based on these numbers, electric cars are cars primarily running on natural gas, nuclear, and coal for the most part. If most of the electric production in your area comes from nuclear and coal, your car runs on that.

And, of course, the mining and manufacturing of these cars, as well as the building and maintenance of the roads and bridges they run on, is also powered by fossil fuels.

I do believe that there are a lot of people that buy electric cars because they really want to do the right thing. But most don’t realize that while they’re not emitting tailpipe exhaust in their communities, somewhere, a power plant is releasing pollutants in order to create the electricity that powers their cars’ batteries. The pollution is often in someone else’s backyard.

Again, I’m not arguing against electric cars or criticising their owners. I’m just trying to highlight that our society’s fossil fuel addiction is harder to kick than most realize.

Electricity Production in the United States as of 2019

But attempt to kick the habit we must. Each of our country’s major energy production sources comes with its own host of damages and dangers:

Natural Gas 38%

Natural gas is often produced as a byproduct of the oil pumping process. At the moment, a lot of natural gas is burned off as waste from the process of pumping oil out of the ground. In the past, almost all natural gas was burned off as a byproduct, wasting an immense amount of potential energy and adding carbon into the atmosphere. Though many coal-fired power plants are now being converted to natural gas, which burns a lot cleaner.

Another major problem with natural gas is the immense infrastructure required to get it to where it is needed to generate power.  Any pipeline or infrastructure requires doing things to the land, buying rights from landowners, or taking land through eminent domain. The amount of outcry from various groups makes it hard to construct any pipeline that is tied to fossil fuel production.

Also, to safety store natural gas and transport it large distances (e.g. overseas), it is liquified, a highly energy and emissions-intensive process.

Coal 23%

Coal-fired power plants are notorious polluters. I studied them and their emissions for nearly a year in college. All science majors had to come up with a study and experiment for a senior seminar. Results were presented in front of all the science faculty.

Most of the methylmercury from coal combustion falls within a 5 miles radius of the coal-fired power plant. This creates hot spots of mercury contamination. My project was to test the levels of the fish that people were catching out of the cooling lake.

My research got stopped. My faculty mentor made excuses. I think she got a call telling me to knock it off. Who wants some college kid pointing out that the kids in the more well-off neighborhoods and schools might be in a pollution hot zone?

Besides mercury, there are plenty of other nasty ramifications from coal combustion. The ash ponds used to contain waste are a particularly nasty environmental hazard.

Yes, scrubbers on smokestacks have helped plants reduce emissions over the years, but they can only do so much.

Nuclear 20%

Nuclear is often thrown into the “green” category because there are practically no emissions when it’s working as it should. But one of the biggest problems with nuclear is the waste created by spent fuel rods.

These rods are stored on-site at nuclear plants. Constant water circulation is required to keep these rods cool and prevent them from melting down and releasing massive amounts of radiation — such as we’ve seen with the ongoing disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear site.

There was a point when the USA’s plan was to store all its spent rods at Yucca Mountain. That project was nixed, so now we have massive separate storage sites that we’re adding to all the time. If the cooling pumps at these locations stop running for any reason, disaster is only 1-5 days away, depending on when the last fuel rods were put in the pools (when they first go in, they’re much hotter than after they sit in the pools for a while). At the moment, the plan is to keep storing spent radioactive rods this way indefinitely.

Maintenance and safe upkeep is a growing burden, too. Many of our nuclear plants were only designed to operate for 30-50 years before being replaced or upgraded. That has not occurred. Lax policies like this are bound to lead to trouble down the road.

Lessons Learned From Off-Grid Living

Propane Appliances

Those that go off-grid often rely on propane to run appliances that use a lot of energy. Propane clothes dryers and refrigerators are very common. Of course, this means you have to haul propane in or have it delivered, making you more dependent on fossil fuel.

Some small freezers are possible to run off of stored energy from renewable sources. The small chest freezer we recently bought only burns 1.2 amps at 110 volts. Over the years, some smaller appliances have become a lot more energy-efficient.

Swamp Coolers and More Fans

Air conditioners are out if you are going wholly off-grid and want to use solar or similar for all your power needs. Consider how much power is burned just keeping homes in the USA cool, even when people are not occupying them for large parts of the day? On our homestead, we use some window unit air conditioners rarely. Some summers, we don’t use them at all. My husband and I have found that it is easier to get acclimatized to working outside in the heat at the beginning of the summer if we just let our bodies adapt to the natural changes instead of creating an artificial environment.

Wood or Propane For Heat

Wood burning stoves are perhaps the common primary source of heat for those off-grid. You can get wood-burning furnaces that are set outside or underneath your home if you prefer to use ducts in conjunction with wood heat.

Propane furnaces or small propane-powered wall units are also very common. Of course, this makes your family more dependent on outside fuel sources. If you have acreage, like we do, that includes wooded areas, you may manage it so that your land provides all of your firewood for the year.

Alternative Hot Water Heater Systems

If you plan on going off-grid, you need to plan out how you will get hot water. There are many ways to approach this depending on how much you need and your climate.  Propane tankless on-demand hot water heaters are one of the easier solutions if you have access to propane. Solar collectors are another option. Here is a link to an excellent article that shows 5 useful methods for getting the hot water you need off-grid.

“Too Much Magic”

Plenty of Peak Prosperity readers are familiar with the work of my friend Jim Kunstler. “The Long Emergency” is his bestselling book on peak oil. I remember reading it when in my 20s. A year or so ago, I wrote Jim, and we started corresponding while I was reading some of his other books. “Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking,Technology, and the Fate of the Nation”  is a book I recommend everyone read because it shows how as a society, we tend to think that technology and science can find a way for us to maintain lifestyles that require massive amounts of energy. This mentality is how we get conferences that talk about flying cars as the future of transportation instead of improving electric and gasoline-powered vehicles.

The truth is that renewable energy cannot sustain the planet’s burgeoning population at the energy consumption level we are all used to. There have to be cuts if we are not going to use fossil fuels. Getting people to change their lifestyle is very difficult. Things have a way of going on until they cannot any longer.

Reliance on Foreign Manufacturing & Imported Materials

In his books, Jim points out that a lot of equipment required for renewable energy, such as solar panels and wind turbines, relies on mining rare earth minerals.

Many of the rare earth minerals used in solar panels come from foreign countries. Recently China has stated that it may restrict the export of rare earth minerals to the United States. They have made similar threats and statements in the past. The fact that a foreign country knows they can use our dependence on rare earth minerals against us, is concerning.

After China announced that they may restrict exports of rare earth minerals, the response of the Biden administration was to start reviewing vital resource supply chains due to the continued threat of shortages of supplies needed for daily life and essential manufacturing. So far, no results or future plans have been announced for ensuring strong supply chains.

While I applaud the pursuit to be more sustainable, the fact remains that if everyone switches over to renewable energy, more raw materials for manufacturing solar panels, turbines, etc, will be required. Supplies of key inputs like rare earth minerals will only become more stressed. The rule of supply and demand will come into play, and the cost of renewable energy will rise due to increased manufacturing and importation costs.

Conclusion

At an individual level, renewable energy is an excellent way to be less dependent on an aging and unreliable US electrical grid. It can also protect you from increased energy costs as power companies raise their rates. The key is to find the methods that work best in your area so that you can make the wisest investment of time and money for the amount of power your produce.

Once you have, then read Peak Prosperity Guide To Home Energy for specific ideas on how to minimize your home’s energy footprint through conservation, as well as which renewable energy systems may be best for you.

Also, there’s an excellent ‘Ask The Expert’s Q&A session coming up this Wednesday at 5pmET with home energy specialist Bruce Sullivan from the Zero Energy Project. He’ll address any and all questions about home energy conservation and production.

At the national level, it’s unrealistic to expect that renewable energy will replace fossil fuels to meet US energy needs unless there is a dramatic downshift in the country’s lifestyle as a whole. Substantial investments in equipment and infrastructure must also be made.

Until that starts happening on a series scale (which it isn’t), we all better use the time we have available now to invest in our own home energy resilience.

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53 Comments

  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 10:38am

    #1

    thc0655

    Status: Platinum Member

    Joined: Apr 27 2010

    Posts: 2479

    12

    Electric cars

    What a great, even-handed, honest review of alternative energies! They aren’t a simplistic, easy solution to our energy problems but they can play a valuable role if we stop and think about the subject from A to Z, just like you said.

    I especially appreciate what you said about electric cars. We have a 2017 Chevy Volt which is really an electric hybrid. The front wheels are driven 100% of the time by the electric motors powered by the batteries. There is a gas generator that starts automatically and imperceptibly when the batteries are depleted and pump electricity into the batteries while they continue to drive the wheels. Because of this, we never have any “range anxiety” because we can quickly refuel at any gas station and continue driving. We experimented with the Volt for 8 months to see what it could do and then shifted our driving strategy. Now we try to restrict all of our driving within the battery range and recharge at home in our garage. The Volt’s electric range can be as little as 41 miles in cold temperatures near zero and as high as 73 miles at 70 degrees. (The motor also comes on automatically and for short periods to keep the batteries warm below 32 F. and to keep them cool above 90 F. but that takes little energy.) We commonly go several months before putting even a gallon of gasoline in the tank. Our equivalent MPG in the Volt runs 300-410 mpg. Our second vehicle is a Chevy Colorado pickup truck that we use for long trips, hauling stuff, in the snow and in very cold weather. It gets 14-25 mpg, so every trip we take the Volt instead is a significant gas savings.

    Our primary reason to get the Volt was to cope with gasoline price spikes or even unavailability. I was a teen age driver when the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo hit and that has left an indelible impression on me. If gas were to go to $5 or $10/gallon or become simply unavailable, the Volt would enable us to get around in our local area anywhere we needed to go. We might even be able to make some money on the side by selling our services as a “gypsy taxi” service! Driving the Volt and reducing our gasoline usage is also helping us get more out of our rooftop solar array which is grid-tied. Our solar installer told us to expect to completely recoup our investment in 9-10 years, but with the Volt we’re estimating that will happen in about 8 years.

    I agree that electric cars are not the solution to our energy challenges, but the Volt makes sense to us and does reduce our use of fossil fuels. If we only had one car, the Volt wouldn’t be it, but it fills a niche for us and our lifestyle.

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 10:41am

    #2

    David Huang

    Status: Bronze Member

    Joined: Jan 20 2010

    Posts: 97

    6

    RMH

    Thanks for the great overview of various pros and cons with renewable energy.  As someone who lives off grid I wanted to add a couple points and personal observations from my own experiences.  First, as was noted in the article I'd like to emphasis that reducing your energy needs/wants is a HUGE factor and certainly worth putting serious effort into!

    Next, I wanted to share an unexpected quirk I found with my photovoltaic system when I disconnected from the grid.  For off grid system designs you need to size the number of panels and batteries to meet your needs in the lowest energy producing times of the year.  For some such as myself there might be a major difference between what can be generated in the short cloudy winter days compared to the long sunny summer ones.  The quirk I found was this resulted in a system which much of the year is capable of generating lots of excess power beyond my normal needs.  As a result there are periods when I can use power hog appliances and it's actually the best thing.  For example, at the moment I have excess power being consumed to run electric space heaters to take advantage of energy that would go unused otherwise.  However, I do need to keep a close eye on whether or not clouds roll in to block the sun.

    Finally, I wanted to note in the realm of burning wood to heat a space that if you aren't familiar with rocket mass heaters (RMH) I'd highly recommend checking them out to see if one might work in your space.  In real world applications people who switch from regular wood heaters to a RMH report a 50 to 90 percent reduction in the amount of wood needed!  I have a small one I built which is not as efficient as it could be just because I lack the physical space to make it as large as it could be to get the full effects of mass.  Still I estimate I'm using 50 to 60 percent less wood than the soapstone wood stove I had been using, and 80 to 90 percent less supplemental propane for the regular furnace kept as back up for when I'm away from home.  I know I've shared this here before, but since there may well be new people reading this, I did write a blog entry on my own site about the process of building my RMH if anyone is interested.  (Sadly, I still need to do the finish work so it doesn't look like crap.  I'm thinking a tile and/or stone exterior.)

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 11:30am

    #3
    THCisWHATweNEED

    THCisWHATweNEED

    Status: Member

    Joined: Dec 21 2020

    Posts: 5

    5

    Planet of the Humans

    A Good Documentary about renewable energy.

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 11:36am

    #4

    Snydeman

    Status: Bronze Member

    Joined: Feb 06 2013

    Posts: 632

    2

    EVs

    I love my 2019 Chevy Bolt, all EV, but I was under no illusion regarding its environmental-friendliness. The mining and manufacturing of the batteries alone is hardly a clean process. While I enjoy not emitting C02 from the car, our primary reason for buying it was as a commuter car to take on short jaunts to and from the school where I taught. The fact that I was "excessed" a month after I bought the car notwithstanding, I love how nimbly it drives, how quiet it is, and how relatively cheap it is to operate - especially when gas prices go higher. It's not a long-haul vehicle; though I did take it to Myrtle beach last summer, I had to stop twice to rapid-charge it on each leg of the journey, which can be a serious pain in the behind.

     

    In any case, EVs can be a wonderful choice, but not due to environmental considerations.

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 12:14pm

    #5

    Mark_BC

    Status: Silver Member

    Joined: Apr 30 2010

    Posts: 543

    3

    Mark_BC said:

    The thing with EV's, if they AREN'T the "solution", then what is? Horse and buggy? What is the energy consumption per mile of a horse and buggy?

    What's the other choice? No powered transport at all, bicycles everywhere? How can you run a society on that?

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 12:18pm

    #6

    Mark_BC

    Status: Silver Member

    Joined: Apr 30 2010

    Posts: 543

    1

    Mark_BC said:

    The other problem with big hydro is carbon emissions. When you flood a valley then all the carbon stored in the biomass (soil and vegetation) eventually goes up as CO2 never to return. Plus the concrete releases CO2 as it cures. Plus all the fossil fuels needed to run the equipment for construction.

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 12:27pm

    #7
    Mots

    Mots

    Status: Silver Member

    Joined: Jun 18 2012

    Posts: 446

    8

    `Air conditioners are out if you are going wholly off-grid and want to use solar or similar for all your power needs.`

    Last Summer I used 100% solar (no batteries) to run two air conditioners (split unit heat pumps that cost me only 350$ apiece because I live in Asia) between 10AM and 3PM.  During cloudiness and from about 9-10AM and 3-4PM only one pump would run due to limited solar output.  I have since installed more solar panels and hope to run 4 air cons this coming Summer.

    Solar panel costs have dropped so much that they contribute only 5-10% of the EROI if you go all corporate and approach your energy needs by giving money to a bank and signing a contract.  But if you DIY and also avoid the high profit corporate equipment and methods then you can get high EROI and low cost solar use.  10 times as many panels can compensate for extremely cloudy conditions.  Put up enough panels yourself and run big appliances directly on solar when it is raining. It really helps if you can leave America because the prices seem to be about 3 times less out here (and even cheaper in China).

    I wrote a book on this `Take Back The Power!`
    I have only one circuit board between my panels and my heat pump.  I teach how to do this in the book and send out free blank circuit boards to those who buy the book, can source parts and know how to build.  Skills are everything.

    I may ignore keyboarder blow black to this comment.

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 1:13pm

    JAG

    Status: Platinum Member

    Joined: Oct 26 2008

    Posts: 811

    3

    JAG said:

    I just found Mot's book on Amazon (I couldn't find it at first) here:

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08P2C6HB4/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_7SBC7PZRFCJZE0XX8Z7S

    I think this is exactly the information I've been looking for. Thanks Mots!

     

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 1:32pm

    #9

    JAG

    Status: Platinum Member

    Joined: Oct 26 2008

    Posts: 811

    2

    PV-direct powered heat pump with "thermal battery"?

    Hey Mots,

    Thanks for the post and I have a question:

    Could one use your information (and the required skills) to build a PV-direct powered air-to-water heat pump/chiller that could chill water in a large super-insulated tank during the day while the sun is out?

    You could use the chilled water at night for radiant cooling in the house.

    I'm just guessing, but maybe it might be more efficient than storing the energy produced in a thermal battery (insulated tank) than in a LifePo4 battery bank, if one was going to use the energy for space cooling anyway.

    Your feedback is much appreciated. Thanks.

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 1:51pm

    #10
    TWalker5

    TWalker5

    Status: Silver Member

    Joined: Mar 13 2020

    Posts: 149

    3

    Efficiency of EVs

    Clearly, EVs are not a panacea, due to their need for electricity produced by fossil fuels. But aren’t they still a substantial upgrade due to their efficiency?  It’s my understanding that ICE wastes about 70% of the energy they produce, as heat. Electric motors generally lose about 10% as heat.  Doesn’t that mean the total energy needed to move a vehicle and its occupants from point A to point B will be dramatically less in an EV than with an ICE?

     

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 2:05pm

    #11
    suziegruber

    suziegruber

    Status: Bronze Member

    Joined: Dec 03 2008

    Posts: 233

    12

    Off-Grid Solar Is Not For The Faint of Heart

    I got my electricity from off-grid solar for 10 years.  I am here to tell you from lots of experience that it is not easy depending on your battery system.  I had lead acid batteries that required a lot of attention.  It's fun if you're an engineer by heart and I think off-grid living is great to learn to be conscious of your inputs and outputs. And I am very grateful to be back on the grid.

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 2:33pm

    MarkM

    MarkM

    Status: Gold Member

    Joined: Jul 22 2008

    Posts: 550

    1

    TWalker5

    I have no idea what the numbers are, but there is an inefficiency at the power plant as well as line losses in the electrical grid transmission system.

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 2:56pm

    #13

    roosterrancher

    Status: Silver Member

    Joined: Apr 16 2010

    Posts: 157

    10

    Off grid living

    We got lucky and built our house around the thought of being off grid. It was a pretty easy decision in our rural area, our power company wanted $18,000 to cut down our trees and ruin our view, solar (12 years ago) went in for $19,000. I got lucky again and found a guy that had lived off grid for 30 years and he helped me design the system. We too have lead acid, it does require monthly maintenance, for the most part, just adding water.

    Our big users of power are our water pump, freezer, and fridge, they are all D/C so there is no loss of power during inversion. Since it was a new build, we bought very efficient appliances, knowing it was cheaper to do so than buy solar panels to power inefficient appliances.

    We chose our property carefully, south facing, lots of sun and at an elevation that we don't need to run an air-conditioned. We designed a passive solar home that requires very little wood to heat.

    All in all there is not much difference to us living off grid, most of the time we have more power than we need, enough to charge a golf cart during the day, weld, etc.

    We are by no means power hogs, we do consciously watch our consumption. The second house on our place is conventional and we use about $15.00 a month in power, costs us another $30 to get it here. We have lost power for 5 days at a time in the old house due to wind events. The only hiccup in the off grid home was when I let the battery terminals get dirty. So far, 12 years in,, life is good!

    We are working on our second passive solar off grid build, this one has a root cellar and 10" adobe infill walls for thermal mass. Rough cut saw mill lumber, harvested about 5 miles down the road.

    Rob

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 3:45pm

    Mots

    Mots

    Status: Silver Member

    Joined: Jun 18 2012

    Posts: 446

    1

    PV powered thermal battery suggestion

    JAG
    In my opinion you are correct.  The main issue is how well your insulation is.

    By the way, those who are passionate about thermal electric (passive hot water rooftop systems) unreasonably throw a lot of dirt on solar electric.  Due to the 3 fold transfer efficiency of heat pumps (above freezing temps anyway) and readily available heat pump driven water heaters, solar electric is vastly superior to thermal solar for several reasons:  1. 200 to 400 percent more efficient than thermal solar due to heat pumping; 2. when it is hot out, solar electric can be used to run air cons, thermal solar cannot; 3. can send the solar electric energy anywhere with a couple wires, thermal solar is limited by plumbing.  I have yet to see one in my country that is not backed up with a fossil fuel burner.  I have been using unbacked solar electric hot water for over 6 years.

    Electric techniques (such as solar electric heat pump) is so much more efficient and practical for heating hot water that the country I live in has made standard electric hot water tanks illegal and everyone is decreasing electric footprint for hot water ca. 3 fold by heat pumping using ca. 3 times less electricity.  The 3 times extra heat produced by electric heat pumps is not factored in when comparing solar energy to fossil burning or to rooftop thermal solar.  Regarding `inefficient appliances` the 1960 coffee pot and 2021 coffee pot are both above 99 % efficient, the 1980 electric motor and 2021 electric motor are both above 75% efficient.  The 2010 fridge (I believe) and the 2021 fridge are very similar.  Non-US countries in Asia have advanced appliances by going to DC fridges and heat pumps.  Sanyo pioneered that about 20 years ago but the US hasnt kept up very well.  The major advances in appliance efficiency in the last 20 years have come from replacing AC compressors with DC compressors and AC to AC voltage conversions into DC to DC conversions.  Hmmm I see a trend here.

    Rapidly changing new technology often is passionately derided as bad by early adopters or those who are focusing on past practices.  I`ll never forget the highly educated and experienced professor in my grad school who went on a screaming rant about how crappy and fuzzy his new 8 bit digital chart recorder was and the greater superiority of his old analog pen and chart paper unit. These kinds of problems and advances are engineering/fairly routine driven by prices and profits and not limited by (not require) any scientific advance or research breakthrough driven by passionate dreams.

    lol I am dating myself.  I hope I live long enough to look back on these days of passionate denial of solar electric before panel recycling has fully kicked in, and old methods/forms of electricity are finally abandoned.

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 4:16pm

    #15
    Nate

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    NiFe battery

    Always thought this very old technology would become useful at some point in the future.  Using common materials and a safe electrolyte, NiFe batteries may have legs.  New word - battolysers.

    "[Nickel-iron batteries] are resilient, being able to withstand undercharging and overcharging better than other batteries," says John Barton, a research associate at the School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering, Loughborough University in the UK, who also researches battolysers. "With hydrogen production, the battolyser adds multi-day and even inter-seasonal energy storage."

    Besides creating hydrogen, nickel-iron batteries have other useful traits, first and foremost that they are unusually low-maintenance. They are extremely durable, as Edison proved in his early electric car, and some have been known to last upwards of 40 years. The metals needed to make the battery – nickel and iron – are also more common than, say, cobalt which is used to make conventional batteries.

    The battery invented 120 years before its time - BBC Future

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 5:49pm

    #16

    Rector

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    My EV - 2012 to date

    Long ago I bought a Nissan Leaf - around 2012 if memory serves - and it has been a fantastic little vehicle.   All in we spent $23K and are still driving it today - everyday.

    The battery went out of spec in 2015 and Nissan replaced it free.  Since then we have had ZERO maintenance issues and it has been a pleasure to own.  Nothing to do with CO2 or fossil fuels.  EV's are just simpler as they have no fuel, coolant, oil, transmission, exhaust or other systems.

    I will do it again - but this time I'm going all in for a high end EV.

    Rector

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 6:15pm

    Snydeman

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    Rector!

    Spot on. No motor oil to change. No air filter. State emissions test? Nope.

    Lots of small, intangible benefits. Plus, for me, occasionally blowing away the mustang with the butthole driver revving his engine next to me by zipping to 60mph in a heartbeat and leaving him in the dust is pretty fun once in awhile too.

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 6:54pm

    #18
    2retired

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    2retired said:

    I read somewhere that: owning a Tesla allows you to flaunt your wealth, as well was your morality, at the same time. In reality EVs (often subsidized) are an efficient tax avoidance maneuver (road tax on gas), but the marginal fuel in your area fuels it, often natural gas or coal, at reduced efficiency (each conversion of: coal to heat to generate electricity looses a % of the energy you theoretically started with). The coal generation pollutes someone else's air leaving your city dweller with cleaner air.

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 7:50pm

    #19
    Joseph Wojcik

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    Joseph Wojcik said:

    Electricity is not a source of energy, unless you are harnessing lightning. It is a way to transport energy  from one form to another more useful form.

    That being said, electric cars will always be the least efficient use of energy.  The energy used to power electric cars has to be transformed from, solar,  thermal, nuclear, or chemical energy, to mechanical energy. Every time you change the state of one form of energy to another you loose a % due to inefficiency in the transformation process.

    Solar would be the winner if we had the storage problem solved. But we don't. Its always been a storage problem.

    Natural gas combustion is the most efficient, economical, and cleanest form of transportation energy available to the planet with todays technology. After all hydrocarbons are just a storage mechanism of solar energy via photosynthesis. Because CH4 is such a simple molecule its combustion is much more efficient that of gasoline octane 87+ . Most gasoline is not combusted due to the size of the molecule. Leaving behind all sorts of pollutants. Ch4 or natural gas leaves behind in its most efficient form co2 and h20. Water is good, and Co2 is not a problem unless you think breathing is a problem.

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 10:06pm

    Mots

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    Efficiency of EVs

    TWalker5

    You are correct.
    Electric motors typically are 75% to 95% efficient wherein ICEs are typically 15% to 30%.  Another helpful property is this: an internal combustion motor increases power with speed (amount of gas burned proportional to how many times the thing explodes in a minute) and achieves its rated power at high rpm.  So to get high horsepower, you need to rev it up.  An electric motor on the other hand creates power from electricity proportionally to current squared.  At start up (very low) speeds you can run an electric motor at very high power (often times a multiple of its rated power) for a short time because it is the heat build-up/dissipation that limits the power output ability). Electric motors match the use requirements better for cars and (diesel-electric) locomotives. Electric motors are also electric generators and in most cases easily recapture kinetic energy from braking, which is something fossil burning motors cannot do.  I believe that this recapture of energy from locomotives is fairly recent as I know an engineer who did some pioneering work on it about 10 years ago.

    For this reason many commercial, and particularly naval vessels and locomotives have gone to a diesel electric system wherein a diesel motor is run (typically at 3k rpm) at a continuous speed where it has highest efficiency and lasts a very long time, which turns a generator that converts the mechanical motion into electric at about 95% efficiency, and then this runs high efficiency electric motor(s).  Its still a fossil powered system, but combines electric motors.

    FOR THE RECORD: I have no expectation (and am not promoting the idea) that the AMERICAN WAY of life will continue if we just replace fossil fuel with renewables.   I am a refugee from America who started a farm and wrote a book on how to scrape by with a DIFFERENT  lifestyle that is much more similar to my farming grandparents.  Please consider walking away

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 10:14pm

    Mr Curious

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    Great documentary

    not a big lover of Michael Moore, but bravo to him for supporting this nice piece of work

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 10:31pm

    #22
    Mr Curious

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    Environmentalism

    Perhaps the biggest failure in the history of movements has been the environmental movement after the 70's. It's hard to pinpoint the biggest reasons for this out of so many. The hypocrisy of our rich and famous stands our as a pretty big slap in the face, with "climate envoy" John Kerry flying around in a private jet being only the latest example in a long list. One could google pictures of Al Gore's mansions just to enjoy getting pissed off. I actually thought at one time that the world would embrace our way of thinking and we'd all become passionate together about renewable energy. I was an idiot. Politicizing the issue didn't help since we now have a guaranteed 50% of the population who rightly believe that most environmentalists are full of shit. Too many people at this very moment believe that renewable energy will allow business as usual to continue and this will be a harsh awakening. Too many people don't realize that there is no substitute for oil, at least for life as we know it. Renewables are a derivative of oil energy at this point, not anywhere near a replacement. Now it looks like we have an administration that will actively attack the oil/gas industry, much like shooting oneself in the testicles. Not that the fracking industry won't crash anyway. The problem is that the core of what drives the economy is flying, sailing ships across the oceans, operating heavy machinery, and driving goods to market with diesel fuel. There is no realistic alternative to oil for any of this. In the end, when most of us are utterly destitute, we will consume much less and  recycle items for survival. Hopefully this will be excellent for the environment. Until then, good luck with alternative energies.

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  • Mon, Mar 01, 2021 - 11:15pm

    Mr Curious

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    Efficiency of EVs

    EVs may be more efficient in some ways, I'm not sure that is helpful at this late stage. EVs have a voracious appetite for copper, nickel, lithium, cobalt, silver and whatever else that has to be mined using lots of diesel fuel and then transported all over the world using more fossil fuel. Lots of oil, rubber, fresh water etc.... will be needed in the manufacture of all these EVs. A used vehicle is much greener than an EV.  The other problem you run into is how are increasingly impoverished citizens around the world going to secure financing to replace over a billion internal combustion engines? Even if they could, would there be enough coal fired electric plants to recharge all of those vehicles or would we need many more?  Nuclear isn't going to work because it takes years (and lots of oil) to build up more capacity and we don't have years anymore. It's my opinion that smart people, such as those on this website will need to start focusing on walkable communities and scaled down activities as an adaption to the current predicament.

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  • Tue, Mar 02, 2021 - 1:20am

    #24
    Mots

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    [There is no realistic alternative to oil for any of this........ Until then, good luck with alternative energies.]

    Mr Curious
    I am happy to see that your feet are on the ground. The American way of life is as dead, going forward, as the dodo bird.  Fossil fueled life is over, except for the elite.  Renewables have no chance in hell to keep an American lifestyle.  I am happy to see that you understand that and hope that you can help form a workable alternative to muddle through (which I examine in my book).

    I think that we need to go past the passionate BIG corporate SCIENCE! has the answer to replace fossil fuel!  BS and work with reasonable compromises, such as electric vehicles that go 5 times more slowly, weigh 10 times less, use 100 times less energy, and can be made of no rare earth or expensive metals.  Actually this is so easy to do now and in fact is done in large scale in some major Chine cities but does not fit corporate America and arrogant consumers of their dream narrative and is completely ignored.

    Everyone inside the US knows that everyone on the planet wants to emulate them and there is absolutely no alternative.  Therefore renewables have no future, despite the fact that humans have more experience with renewables than with fossil fuels, and there have been a number of successful steady state civilizations.

    I think that things are very different and more optimistic in Asia, particularly in China.  Even in Japan we have a new class of vehicles to ameliorate the fossil energy issue and help us muddle through: 7 hp single occupancy commuter vehicles. Unfortunately its a struggle because American companies wont leave us alone to develop our own solutions.

    Instead of   `-alternative energies-  can they replace fossil to keep our American Dream?  YES OR NO!'    please think instead of what we can do to reasonably survive the best we can.   Third world countries and advancing countries such as China have many insights that a humble person can take advantage of.  This is no longer the American century, as Gerald Celente often points out, and America is not the go-to place for lifestyle answers or even for technology.  We need to be more modest and humble and look past the crap that big corporations are offering us in the US. I have the very definite impression that American companies are a big part of the problem and keeping us away from practical solutions (not unlike what they do in the medical area preventing low cost/low energy medicines because of conflict with expensive interventions and vaccines).  My grand parents would have been thrilled to incorporate (refashion/redevelop ie. throw out the Corporate crap and make their own appropriate solutions)  the existing technology that we now have to make their lives better on the farm.   My observations of how to do this were a major motivation to write my book.

    One cannot have a meaningful debate when the assumption is that renewable energy comprises negotiating with a bank to put solar panels on a McMansion and become integrated into pricing and distribution schemes that are optimized to enhance shareholder value, with resultant extremely low EROI (which begs the conclusion that renewables simply cant cut it).  Or, whether to buy an electric car that weighs 3000 pounds and fits the interstate system, to continue to enjoy car culture, [using renewables instead of fossil fuel!]

    I suggest that for a beginning point (BEFORE seriously considering arguments about (-can renewables replace fossil fuel? YES or NO!- )  we should all get the hell out of our suburban McMansions and start dealing with the reality of wealth production. If all discussion of 'renewables Can or cannot!!! which is it!!!` is from a perch from a McMansion, then the arguments are unmoored and the assumptions need some evaluation before proceeding.

    The most common counter argument to this is: but we cant ALL go back to the land with renewables!  How about the millions of people in the cities!  How about the millions without skills!  Yeah, so what about them.  This is what happens when an empire collapses.  No hand waving, renewable energies, big SCIENCE! or discussion can change that.

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  • Tue, Mar 02, 2021 - 1:45am

    #25
    David Henry

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    Shout out for Mots' book

    I'm about 1/3 through Mots' book "Take Back the Power: Sustainable energy and freedom are within your grasp" and it's a real gem! It has sparked numerous aha moments about why we have the grid system we do, what we could do instead at our local or individual level, and the change in thinking about energy usage it would entail.

    JAG-It was interesting to hear you mention wanting to use solar electric for cooling water, I'm thinking of going the opposite direction this summer and heating water for thermal storage in a hoop house (but also for some lights, fans, etc.).

    Anyway, if anyone is thinking of doing their own solar electric systems, buy this book!

    Part of what made this book so delightful was the huge contrast to a previous book on the topic I made the mistake of reading (well 75% through it before I quit it): Gretchen Bakke's "The Grid: The Fraying Wires between Americans and our energy." (One of Bill Gates favorite books for 2016!). At 364 pages it should have been half as long. But the real problem was Bakke's thesis about how to fix our grid: more investment, more top down "smart" control, and trust the experts and don't do anything yourself.

    Looking forward to finishing the remaining 2/3 of the book. And probably sending Mots some questions later this summer if I try to put it into practice.

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  • Tue, Mar 02, 2021 - 2:05am

    RandomMike

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    Attitude needed for energy survival

    It will require a fascination with energy efficiency by everyone.

    That 7hp car fascinated me. Of course my soon to be solar powered e-bike (I have all the panels and parts, just haven't gotten around to it yet...) to get to the local store is pretty fascinating, to me.

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  • Tue, Mar 02, 2021 - 5:13am

    #27

    sand_puppy

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    Got Mots' book too

    I read an advance copy and had my curiosity peeked, but was too deep in my internal chaos of divorce to study it.

    Will come back on this topic now.

    Really agree with David Henry above, to pay attention whether the author is decentralizing or centralizing control.  A key axis.

    Thanks Mots!

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  • Tue, Mar 02, 2021 - 5:47am

    #28

    sand_puppy

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    Humor: Damn Coronavirus!

     

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  • Tue, Mar 02, 2021 - 6:08am

    #29

    JAG

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    Re: David Henry

    I wish I lived where you did DH, but my wife is addicted to the beach. Unless she divorces me (I won't be divorcing her, lol) then I am stuck with 8-9 months of heat and humidity on the Texas Gulf Coast.

    This may be old news to you, but this video shows the advantages of PV-direct water heating versus solar thermal water heating.

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  • Tue, Mar 02, 2021 - 6:27am

    #30
    psebby

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    Also recommend Mots' book

    I also recommend Mots' book "Take Back the Power!" - good ideas, good stories, and he has lots of experience using the innovative interrupted DC power circuits (that he invented)  in his own house and community.

    I've got one of his circuits (via SandPuppy - thanks!) wired up and running from some of my own solar panels.  Haven't used it much yet but looking forward to more experimentation.

    For more info, buy the book or see diygrid.net

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  • Tue, Mar 02, 2021 - 7:13am

    DM0nk

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    Second the Interest in Mot's Book

    I second the interest in Mot's book. I just finished reading it and am considering how the information should fit in to my far northern life. I already have a small PV system, but I think Mot is suggesting a fundamental shift in how we may decentralize energy production and shift our lifestyles for greater individual independence. This shift doesn't have to be expensive, but it does require flexibility and releasing our death grip on fast everything.

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  • Tue, Mar 02, 2021 - 7:24am

    #32
    Penguin Will

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    Interesting topic...

    I'm always glad to see energy up at the top of this list. It's a deep subject and I am glad to see everyone chipping in.

    It's also pretty controversial now. I joke with my students that when I chose to go into engine design almost everyone I met would say how interesting it sounded and wished me luck. Now? At least on the 'net you typically get a reception normally reserved for an unemployed son-in-law or a noisy neighbor.

    As far as engines and carbon footprint go? First ask where the car is to be driven (and therefore the source of the electricity). Then ask about other things like driving duties and personal finances. But at least for now, it really doesn't make much difference.

    I know this is not going to be popular, but it is true.

    At this point you may, or may not, be doing mother nature a favor by driving a fully electric car. It depends on where you live. At least with natural gas turbines making the electricity it has transformed fully electric cars from a bad joke into a small improvement. But, to be honest, hybrids are almost always a good step wherever you live. None of it will make much difference as things stand now. A difference in total carbon emissions of 10 to 20 percent just doesn't matter much. Could it be a part of a suite of technologies that could cut total societal carbon emissions by a quarter or even a third? I believe it could...

    Again, so what?

    That ain't going to save the planet. It will make some people feel better I guess. But always remember this: carbon inputs in the build stage scale with cost. Not on a 1:1 basis but cost does mean increased carbon input. Energy is an enormous input to auto production. It takes years for an E-car to break even. Some never do. Remember this the next time some millionaire driving a $200k Tesla lectures you on driving a normal sedan.

    Will

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  • Tue, Mar 02, 2021 - 8:50am

    #33
    Mohammed Mast

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    penguin

    excellent post will. yes troof is usually not popular

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  • Tue, Mar 02, 2021 - 8:54am

    #34
    2retired

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    2retired said:

    I would like to believe in EVs, but I drive what doesn't stand out around here, and carries the loads and serves the utility (and never in the shop). A number of years ago, a friend borrowed my custom ordered suburban (plain with invisible add ons), and a (big) car dealership owner who dropped by, sneered at it, saying (sneeringly) 'we get one or two a year that buy for 'function''.

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  • Tue, Mar 02, 2021 - 8:56am

    Mohammed Mast

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    sp

    i need the link. that is my neighbors place. lol

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  • Tue, Mar 02, 2021 - 9:22am

    #36
    Mohammed Mast

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    ev's

    been driving ev's for decades.

    on the golf course.

    had to be towed a number of times

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  • Tue, Mar 02, 2021 - 10:11am

    #37
    Kman

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    EVs and Solar

    I see a lot of comments about EV's being powered by coal/natgas/etc.  If you are concerned where your power for your EV comes from, put solar on your roof.   The simple reality is that most people install solar for financial reasons, environment being secondary.  In CA, PG&E territory- solar systems generally pay for themselves in 7 years or less.   Its lot cheaper to fill your EV with solar power than your ICE car with gas in CA.

    As for EV's, I definitely second all the comments about the Chevy Volt.  Its a great car.  We have both a 1st and 2nd gen model.  The 1st gen model had great build quality for a Chevy and gets about 40 miles EV only range and about 35 mpg on gas.  You can pick up a nice used one for around $7,500.  The 2nd gen is a lot more fun to drive and we routinely get 50-60 mile range and 40+mpg on gas.  You can pick a nice one up for around $15K.  Its too bad that Chevy discontinued it or at least didn't resurrect as a small SUV.  These are great cars at a good price.  Just think of what they will start going for when gas hits $5/gallon...

    I am also a bit of a car nut.  So while EV's are the likely future and many can be fun to drive, there's is still a lot of fun to be had with a nice V8 and a manual transmission.

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  • Tue, Mar 02, 2021 - 12:35pm

    Mr Curious

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    Big Corporate Science

    Thanks Mots for the reply. Didn't realize you had an entire book on this. Anyway, you bring up a good point. The corporate model of strip mining the earth for it's resources and citizens for their wealth and personal information is utterly incompatible with environmental harmony on earth. In other words our conundrum is that we can't possibly nurture the environment and simultaneously support the corporate system, which is at the moment is presumably what keeps us from living in caves. How does one unplug from the system that is causing so much damage without unplugging oneself?

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  • Tue, Mar 02, 2021 - 1:02pm

    #39
    Mohammed Mast

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    alternative energy

    the idea of small scale alternative energy is a great idea. getting off the grid is almost as important as getting off the radar. the following quote is where i have some issues.

    "The most common counter argument to this is: but we cant ALL go back to the land with renewables!  How about the millions of people in the cities!  How about the millions without skills!  Yeah, so what about them.  This is what happens when an empire collapses.  No hand waving, renewable energies, big SCIENCE! or discussion can change that."

    i happen to have friends and family that live in cities. those people rely on a large range of centralized utilities and services. it is insulting to simply cast them aside for some kind of my way or the highway zealotry. these people make up over 80% of the us population. they contribute to the whole. can some of them move to the mtns. of western nc.? yeah i am sure samantha wants a bunch more neighbors. the truth is most can't. a large % are boomers who are too old to start a homestead out in the boondocks.

    i was a member of an earlier "back to the land " movement in the 60's and 70's. 95% of those people have moved back to the cities. the us landscape is littered with the well intentioned failures of that generation.

    there is this myth about energy in china. 65% of electricity is still generated with coal. the biggest renewable energy source is hydro. solar is significant but considering china is the center of the universe for solar equipment the penetration is not what one would think. china is building nuclear. china is developing fusion. china is not decentralizing.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_policy_of_China

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_China

    solar accounts for only 10% of japans electricity. fukushima is back online as are others. the reality is japan cannot operate with a solar or renewable economy. so what about the people in tokyo? maybe they should all move to communes on the islands.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_Japan

    depending on your bias solar has either a wildly optimistic or pessimistic eroei. do you calculate just the panels? the invertor? the storage? or everything?

    whatever one's bias one size fits all and the rest be damned does not work at any level

     

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  • Tue, Mar 02, 2021 - 3:42pm

    #40
    TWalker5

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    TWalker5 said:

    Some fantastic discussions in this thread.  It’s a great reminder of why I come here.

    Re Mots’ book, do you all think it is worthwhile for someone whose peak electrical achievement is changing out a few light fixtures?  We already have a small, grid-tied PV system but I paid to have it installed as the thought of DIY was intimidating.

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  • Tue, Mar 02, 2021 - 5:53pm

    davidveale

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    davidveale said:

    Mark_BC -- You've nailed it.  No, we can't run the same society on horse-power, but there are a thousand years or more of precedent for running a somewhat different society that way.  Living near Amish communities as I do makes it seem a little more realistic than it might be for someone in a large city.  Self replicating, self fueling in most parts of the world, no spare parts supply chain necessary, and (perhaps the most overlooked) no actual roads are necessary.  That's where I put my money over a decade ago -- farming and road transport with horses.  Not without its downsides for sure, but all in all I think it's about the best we can hope for.  As an added bonus, those who make the change will discover something entirely new and wonderful -- the feeling of love and gratitude towards your "transportation" after a long drive or difficult farming task.  I've never really felt that for a car or tractor -- and never had them reciprocate. Sail transport has a bright future as well, imho.

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  • Tue, Mar 02, 2021 - 9:50pm

    #42
    mntnhousepermi

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    microhydro correction and my power thoughts

    A few corrections in regards to micro-hydro power.  Micro hydro does not disrupt fish, the environment, the water way in any way.  It really is micro.  A small pipe carrying water.  You put in a small intake that is filtered, no harm to fish, it is small and in the stream, like a screened box.  Inside that is the pipe inlet.  the pipe leaves the stream and goes as far as needed, less for steep slope, longer for less sloped, then powers the small turbine, exits in a pipe and back to the stream.

    I am also thinking more about using straight DC power when I can and decentralizing my power here at home.  So, I am going to run my new well pump on direct DC, so it will pump when the sun is out, which is fine as I have water tanks.  I have been living for months now, since the fire, with no pressure pump ( from tank to house) so on just gravity and it is not as much pressure as I would like but is doable.  You certainly can barely brush teeth upstairs, but downstairs can take a low pressure shower, takes ALOT longer to run the washing machine, since it takes so long to fill, but it is doable.  I am putting in a new pressure pump, and it is AC, but I know I can live without it  and can just turn off the breaker when I need to conserve power.  I had practiced turning it off before, but the last 5 months have been an eye opener.  I will have slightly more pressure since the new tanks going in are 2 feet taller ( 10ft). They make 12ft tall tanks, but I was making the well installers unhappy by trying to push it, and I can't do it myself, so I will have the 10ftx10ft tanks.

    I am also considering a DC refrigerator, they are expensive.  I may try the experiment of running it direct DC and see how badly it performs during days of storms, it might surprise me but more likely I will give it back up power.  The Dc refrigerator I ma thinking of can run on 12 or 24V, and my solar system is 48V.  There might be a way to connect and reduce, but I will more likely just give it its own panels, I picked up a couple used panels that would do the trick, 2 150W 12V panels for $30/each.

    I have a solar PV system, I have had it for 22 years.  The idea is that if I take the most critical loads off of that old system, well I will keep using it for lights, the pressure pump, communications, etc....

     

    One of the power outages last month, we have them a lot, it was sunny days so batteries were recharging every day, so I played with a portable induction burner I had picked up at a garage sale.  It is 1500watts.  It worked great.  ran it no problem off the battery back up. Heats things really fast, boils water faster than my electric kettle.

    My house is all electric, grid intertie solar with batteries, put in 22 years ago.  But only a bit over 2kW of panels and only 3  2.2kW batteries.  I cannot run the electric range or electric water heater off of my solar setup.  I can run water pumps, refrigerator, appliances, lights.... I had solar thermal hot water and it is mildly broken right now ( it is also very old) so I will need to fix that this summer.  Used to be that I would only get power outages during winter storms, so when it was cold, and I use my wood stove to heat with when it is cold, so I can do basic cooking and heat a pot of water on the wood stove. Now we also get power outages when it is windy and not cold.

     

    I find this place, living energy farms inspirational about decentralized, direct DC usage of solar electric.  A good place to get a different perspective.  They do not have the best aesthetics, but you can see the possibilities. This first link should get you to videos showing their systems https://livingenergylights.com/learn-about-dc-microgrids/ , this one is a more general one for projects they are working on  http://livingenergyfarm.org

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  • Wed, Mar 03, 2021 - 2:06am

    #43
    Nate

    Nate

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    Joined: May 05 2009

    Posts: 550

    7

    Greta's dream comes true

    One crisp winter morning in Sweden, a cute little girl named Greta woke up to a perfect world, one where there were no petroleum products ruining the earth. She tossed aside her cotton sheet and wool blanket and stepped out onto a dirt floor covered with willow bark that had been pulverized with rocks. “What’s this?” she asked.
    “Pulverized willow bark,” replied her fairy godmother.
    “What happened to the carpet?” she asked.
    “The carpet was nylon, which is made from butadiene and hydrogen cyanide, both made from petroleum,” came the response.
    Greta smiled, acknowledging that adjustments are necessary to save the planet, and moved to the sink to brush her teeth where instead of a toothbrush, she found a willow, mangled on one end to expose wood fibre bristles.
    “Your old toothbrush?” noted her godmother, “Also nylon.”
    “Where’s the water?” asked Greta.
    “Down the road in the canal,” replied her godmother, ‘Just make sure you avoid water with cholera in it”
    “Why’s there no running water?” Greta asked, becoming a little peevish.
    “Well,” said her godmother, who happened to teach engineering at MIT, “Where do we begin?” There followed a long monologue about how sink valves need elastomer seats and how copper pipes contain copper, which has to be mined and how it’s impossible to make all-electric earth-moving equipment with no gear lubrication or tires and how ore has to be smelted to a make metal, and that’s tough to do with only electricity as a source of heat, and even if you use only electricity, the wires need insulation, which is petroleum-based, and though most of Sweden’s energy is produced in an environmentally friendly way because of hydro and nuclear, if you do a mass and energy balance around the whole system, you still need lots of petroleum products like lubricants and nylon and rubber for tires and asphalt for filling potholes and wax and iPhone plastic and elastic to hold your underwear up while operating a copper smelting furnace and . . .
    “What’s for breakfast?” interjected Greta, whose head was hurting.
    “Fresh, range-fed chicken eggs,” replied her godmother. “Raw.”
    “How so, raw?” inquired Greta.
    “Well, . . .” And once again, Greta was told about the need for petroleum products like transformer oil and scores of petroleum products essential for producing metals for frying pans and in the end was educated about how you can’t have a petroleum-free world and then cook eggs. Unless you rip your front fence up and start a fire and carefully cook your egg in an orange peel like you do in Boy Scouts. Not that you can find oranges in Sweden anymore.
    “But I want poached eggs like my Aunt Tilda makes,” lamented Greta.
    “Tilda died this morning,” the godmother explained. “Bacterial pneumonia.”
    “What?!” interjected Greta. “No one dies of bacterial pneumonia! We have penicillin.”
    “Not anymore,” explained godmother “The production of penicillin requires chemical extraction using isobutyl acetate, which, if you know your organic chemistry, is petroleum-based. Lots of people are dying, which is problematic because there’s not any easy way of disposing of the bodies since backhoes need hydraulic oil and crematoriums can’t really burn many bodies using as fuel Swedish fences and furniture, which are rapidly disappearing – being used on the black market for roasting eggs and staying warm.”
    This represents only a fraction of Greta’s day, a day without microphones to exclaim into and a day without much food, and a day without carbon-fibre boats to sail in, but a day that will save the planet.
    Tune in tomorrow when Greta needs a root canal and learns how Novocain is synthesized.

    Greta’s Nightmare

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  • Wed, Mar 03, 2021 - 6:37am

    #44
    Mohammed Mast

    Mohammed Mast

    Status: Platinum Member

    Joined: May 17 2017

    Posts: 1437

    2

    thanks nate

    A++++

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  • Wed, Mar 03, 2021 - 7:20am

    #45
    Mohammed Mast

    Mohammed Mast

    Status: Platinum Member

    Joined: May 17 2017

    Posts: 1437

    1

    the amish

    the amish certainly are to be admired for a good many reasons.

    it might be good to remember though they live on the periphery of industrial society.

    any bit of iron or steel they use is mined and processed in factories. their clothing is made in textile mills.  rubber? glass? ditto pencils? paper? etc. etc. etc.

    i imagine there are a handful of people on the planet still living in the stone age, but the vast majority are living with the fruits of industrial civilization  thanks to fossil fuels. the only choice is to what degree.

    amory lovins came and spoke at our library. the library is leed certified. he looked around and said he could improve it in a  number of ways. then he spoke about the potential for alternative energy in the area. he said a little solar less wind some hydro. then he said "you have lots of biomass". at that point i looked out the window and imagined 1/2 the trees being gone in 50 years. with a 2 county population of 1/2 million with everyone cutting trees for heat, it wouldn't take to long for the biomass to disappear.

    i remember a long time ago the discussions used to include time, scale, and cost. those parameters are largely gone now. (as is the crash course for the most part). if one is in a room with 8 people it is a fun exercise to think that w/o fossil fuels 7 of them wouldn't be there. which ones would you wish to see gone?

    at one end of the scale are those with computers and internet and at the other are those wearing animal skins and using stone implements.

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  • Fri, Mar 05, 2021 - 7:17am

    #46
    rebel10

    rebel10

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    Joined: Mar 05 2021

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    0

    Desi Serials

    You are doing a great job and keep this good work. I'm inspired and will try to follow the footsteps.
    Kepala Bergetar will present your all favoutie malu dramas.Visit us for all latest Malaysian dramas.

    tonton

    drama melayu

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  • Fri, Mar 05, 2021 - 9:20pm

    #47
    mntnhousepermi

    mntnhousepermi

    Status: Bronze Member

    Joined: Feb 19 2016

    Posts: 317

    1

    short comparison video of 2 approaches to off grid power

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THrZ9HU073s   good food for thought

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  • Sun, Mar 07, 2021 - 4:21pm

    #48
    ehood

    ehood

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    Joined: Apr 02 2010

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    0

    Portable Solar Generators

    Hello Everyone - would anyone have any experience with Portable Solar Generators.  I live in a small upstairs condo in Florida.  During the hurricane season the loss of energy is quite real.  Over the last several years I have been reading about Portable Solar Generators.  There are many brands, sizes, etc on the market.  What I want the solar generator to do is keep the refrigerator going, some light during the night and a portable fan as it becomes quite hot, stuffy, etc. without air conditioning.  There is a Goal Zero Yeti 1400 that has a 1500 Watt output & right now on Amazon it is not available.  There is the Yeti 6000X , 3000X and 1500X which are more powerful. We get a lot of sunshine in Florida.  Any thoughts, guidance on purchasing & using a portable solar generator would be really appreciated.  Thank you.  Elizabeth - A Peak Prosperity Fan for over 10-Years.

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  • Sun, Mar 07, 2021 - 4:44pm

    #49
    2retired

    2retired

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    2retired said:

    One of the (many) lessons I learned in my early solar years is that voltage drop from continuous current drains from your battery bank (from motors) is bad for the motors (guess how I know); you need a lot more battery storage than theoretically necessary if you are running a fridge or pump or you burn out the motor. The other thing of note you have to be able to hunt the current leaks (every inverter, most electronics draw power even when off). Solar systems work really well for lights, not so well for large amperage draws from motors (for me anyway).

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  • Sun, Mar 07, 2021 - 8:29pm

    Boomer41

    Status: Bronze Member

    Joined: Nov 30 2008

    Posts: 220

    2

    Portable Solar Generators

    The devices being touted as portable solar generators are, in my opinion, of dubious value.

    They are advertised as being the answer to power outages, with the implication that they will keep your household running if the utility power fails. However, a look at the specifications reveals that this is misleading at best.

    For example, the Goal Zero Yeti 3000, which sells for around $3,500, essentially consists of a 'power pack' an AC wall charger and a 200 watt solar panel.

    https://www.earthtechproducts.com/yeti-3000x-solar-generator-kit.html

    The 'power pack' includes a 3032 Wh Li-ion battery and an inverter to convert the 10.8 volt battery power to 120 volt AC (household) power plus several ports for charging phones etc.

    The manufacturer claims that this will power many appliances including a microwave oven (1000 watt) for 3 hours, a full size refrigerator (55watt) for 55 hr., and a 42” LED TV (100w) for 31 hours. Let's look at these claims:

    First off, the run time is based on dividing 100% of the rated battery capacity by the power consumption of the device, which is not realistic for two major reasons:

    1. The battery should never be completely discharged as this will drastically shorten its life. The manufacturer claims “500 cycles to 80% capacity”. So the 'fridge run time will realistically be 80% of 55 hr. = 44 hr.
    2. The rated times are for that appliance alone using all of the battery capacity. So if you want to burn your pellet stove, keep a few lights on, run a refrigerator, a TV, a microwave and a computer while you are charging your phone, the battery will be discharged much more rapidly. I estimate 24 hours maximum.

    However, the real problem comes if the power outage lasts for longer than 24 hours. At that point the 'power pack' is dead and you are relying on the solar panel to recharge the battery. The solar panel is rated at 200 watts - which is what it will produce when directly facing the sun at midday. Most of the time, even in Florida, it will produce less than that and only during daylight hours. But let's be charitable and accept the manufacturers data at face value, which is that the solar panel will “provide 200W of solar and fully recharge the Yeti 3000X in 18-36 hours of sun”.

    Even in Florida, the sun only shines for 12 hours per day, so even with nothing plugged into it, the 'power pack' will take three days to recharge, during which time you have no power. Overcast and raining? Tough luck.

    To summarize; a typical $3500+ 'solar generator' might keep your home running for the first few hours of an electrical outage, but after the first day you will be back in the cold and dark with the rest of your neighbors.

    I predict that most people who buy these things will be bitterly disappointed.

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  • Mon, Mar 08, 2021 - 1:02am

    VegasJim

    VegasJim

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    Posts: 110

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    VegasJim said:

    I would suggest building your own solar generator.  The components are still available and it's not that hard to do.  Here is a link to the one I built:

    https://www.peakprosperity.com/forum-topic/what-do-you-use-for-backup-power/

    Cheers,

    Jim

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  • Mon, Mar 08, 2021 - 7:04am

    Kathy

    Kathy

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    Joined: Feb 21 2020

    Posts: 280

    0

    I got a jackery

    I have to agree with Boomer41.  You have to manage expectations.  They take forever to charge with solar and they run very little.

    They are good for charging phones and radios.  I have a few small, lower powered appliances I have purchased just in case I need to run stuff off the battery.  I figure it is another tool in the toolbox, but it is certainly not like a backup generator.

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  • Sat, Apr 10, 2021 - 6:40pm

    #53
    electrician

    electrician

    Status: Member

    Joined: Apr 11 2021

    Posts: 2

    1

    insights from an electrician in Parker CO

    Looking forward to more electric cars and renewable energies in the near future. We are electricians Parker CO and already see an increase in interest for EV chargers for example

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