Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Learning Resources for Alternate Energy Advocates!

I have been collecting solar and alternate energy references and resources for the past 30 years. It started when I was in high school and got interested in other ways to create heat and light (mostly for during typhoons) when we lived on Guam.

I've recently discovered an interesting resource that you can see when you click here. Lots of ideas for ways you can build your own alternate energy sources for your home or small business.

And here are two more:

Solar Power Design Manual--Teach Yourself All About Solar Power. Comprehensive Manual by Genuine Expert. Spreadsheet Included.

Renewable Energy Solutions--The Manual--The folks who put this together have been presented on TV, Google, and the New York Times as a source of Alternate Energy Information. Good stuff for those in need of Alternate Energy!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Alternate Energy Lessons....

The recent hurricanes hitting the Gulf Coast states have left much of the Houston, Texas, area without power. Without power, they can't pump gas or water. According to an alternate energy blog called The Energy Road Map much of this problem is because decent modes of energy storage have not been developed or implemented in this area.

I know the feeling.

When I lived on the Western Pacific island of Guam, we frequently experienced powerful hurricane-like typhoons. These storms would trash the island (namely, taking out the power poles and lines)--and depending on the severity of the storm, it would take anywhere from a few days to a few months to get the power back up around the island.

For this reason, many major businesses and government entities would have backup gas or diesel generators to provide for their lighting and other electrical needs. For cooking, many establishments had propane tanks to provide for this need.

Since the power goes out frequently on Guam for reasons other than storms (the brown-tree-snake is always a problem--they get into the transformers and cause blowouts when they cross two lines on a powerline), we learned to tolerate cold-showers, light-less nights, and other inconveniences. Some of us also got creative with solar heat (lots of sun available on Guam!) and collecting rainwater. A garden hose filled with rainwater (from a 55-gallon drum collecting water from the roof run-off) left on the lawn during the day would provide a nice hot shower for the evening bath.

A pot of rainwater suspended on a tripod over a parabolic, aluminum/mylar-lined dish would provide boiling water and heat for cooking.

The folks on Guam have become adept at barbequeing--because cooking with electricity isn't always an option. You may have to make some adjustments cooking with solar rather than burning "tangentangen" wood, but heat is heat... and you can get a nice hot meal from the sun if you have your parabolic dish set up correctly.

Just a thought.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Do-It Yourself versus Buy What's Available

When I was studying alternate energy in school many, many years ago (1974-1980, if you must know), it was not easy finding good alternate energy products. And, in our classes at the University of Guam and the University of Hawaii Manoa Campus Guam Extension, we wound up making our alternate energy items--including a solar water heater, a solar oven, and a solar cooker.

As students, we each acquired the plywood, copper pipes, solder, butane torch, nails, flat-black spray paint, glass/glazing, glass-cutter, duct-tape, and other tools necessary to build these things. It required some heavy lifting, some hot soldering, teamwork with holding the copper pipes while they were being soldered and for heavy lifting of the assembled units.

I was taking the classes as a public school science teacher (taking additional classes to satisfy my teaching certification requirements)--so the units I made wound up being part of the science curriculum at the high school I was teaching at-- and those things may still be in the science department storeroom.

But the solar energy principles and the learning experience of hands-on work with building the units have stayed with me ever since.

Now? Maybe instead of building my own solar water heater and solar cooker and solar oven (although I probably could easily do this, if I had the inclination), it might be better to buy those that are now available commercially.

My experience with building the things is helpful now when evaluating the quality and performance of the commercially-built units.

Why buy a commercial unit? Even though it may seem costly, you may get a higher-quality product. If you are not a metal-worker or experienced carpenter or construction worker or engineer, you might not get a good unit even after all the time you've put into assembling an alternate energy unit. If you buy a commercial unit, chances are good that the assembly is well-put-together and it will have a warranty on it.

You can always meet the solution half-way -- you can buy a solar or alternate energy KIT -- which provides you with a box or shipping crate of the proper components, and all you have to do is assemble it on your intended location. This ensures that the basic components are good and functional and saves you on the installation costs.

There are many different ways of looking at alternate energy resources for your home or business--I hope these help with your decision to act on avoiding the oil monster.

Power your home with solar or wind power, visit the Alternative Energy Store!


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Thin-film Photovoltaic (TFPV) -- Printing Your Solar Panel?

By 2015 (6 years from now), amorphous silicon photovoltaic technology will use more than $900 million in silane gas and other silicon-based materials (sand will be a good thing to have a lot of).

It used to be that the crystalline silicon photovoltaic materials were the hot technology (as seen in the solar panels developed for space flight and the early PV panels used on home and business installations) for electricity generation.

But now, the thin-film PV materials are strong light absorbers and only need to be about 1 micrometer thick..... so the material costs are significantly reduced. The most common materials for thin-film PV are amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride (CdTe), and copper indium (gallium) diselenide (CIS or CIGS).

Each of these three is suitable for large-area deposition (on substrates of about 1-meter wide) and thus are suitable for high-volume manufacturing. The thin-film semiconductor layers are deposited onto either coated glass or stainless steel sheets.

Research organizations and manufacturers are now exploring how to apply this chemistry to photovoltaic-capable inks--that when applied and dry, will generate a current when exposed to light and other inks that will conduct a current. This enables the high-volume printing of circuits and electricity generating components.

It's technological advances such as the one described above that will raise the bar on solar and alternate energy electricity generating processes!

Want Solar Options? Check Out the Variety Here!


Get Youngsters Involved - Education Works!

Why don't more schools have programs in either their geography or science classes that teach about alternate energy?

Different energy sources are used in different parts of the world. Some countries, particularly those near the equator, can readily make good use of highly available solar energy. Other countries may have to use a combination of solar, geothermal, hydro, and other energy sources to provide the power needed to keep a home warm or cool and to provide the electricity to power things such as lights, computers, radios, and so on.

By learning about the limitations of various kinds of environmental power sources, our kids can be better informed about their own choices in energy usage and conservation.

Not only should they learn about how to read an electric meter, but they should also learn about electricity--what it is and how it works in making things like radios, TVs, computers, stoves, ovens, and otehr modern conveniences possible.

A course that covered solar water heating, solar cooking, solar electricity generation could be easily incorporated into a basic science class, or physics class, or even a geography class, although the science class would make the most sense.

I've covered some more of these thoughts in my Squidoo lens on Energy Independence. Drop on by and visit. And pass this on to your friends who also may be getting frustrated with the price of gas and the chunk it takes out of their income each month!

You Want Wind Power Options? Check Out The Variety Here!


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Resources out there for those who want to ACT!

While in college, I took classes in alternate energy--most involved solar energy. Let's face it, the most powerful energy provider for our planet is the SUN. And it seems that many among us want to ignore this point.

Global warming? Duh. The SUN is the most obvious culprit in this phenomenon. I live in a semi-arid area of the U.S. -- and it gets over 100 degrees F frequently in the summer. And I don't thing Joe Schmoe down the street with his big SUV did anything to cause this heat.

Since we're finding archeological remains of human habitation as the glaciers melt away, this sort of implies that there had been warmer days before "global cooling" (aka "ice age") happened. And humans were there for that. Humans evidently "adapted" to the new climate, and it seems that other animals, such as the wooley mammoth and the saber-tooth tiger weren't as quick at adapting to the new climate. Because we humans are still here and those critters aren't.

So, in my view, we're not experiencing "global warming"--well, yeah, we are. But it's probably more correctly referred to as "coming out of an ice-age". And when this "global warming" has run its cycle, we'll have to prepare for "global cooling" again. And, what are we going to blame this phenomenon on? Refrigerator salesmen? Yup. We humans may have to take the rap again.

Ah well... enough rambling.

While you are at it, check out the following resource on Solar Heat!


So... another blog about alternate energy?

Yup. Another blog about alternate energy. Hey, maybe with more of us squawking about the problem with fossil fuels (oil and coal), we might get some action from our leaders (funny how that might work!).

Remember--the *first* oil crisis in 1973-1974?... when folks lined up at gas stations to get their cars filled up based on whether they had an odd-numbered or even-numbered license plate? We were hearing that the world would run out of oil by the year 2000. (Uh, it didn't, but maybe we should have thought more about alternate energy at that time anyway!) But back in 1974, the year 2000 was more than 25 years away. Now, however, the year 2000 is in the past.

So, we have seen advances in technology for solar photovoltaic panels, advances in energy-saving devices, better battery types, and so on that we can use to beat this new "oil crisis".

You Want Solar Options? Check Out the Variety Here!