Tag Archives: Solar

Get Off The Grid

Garbage warrior-Michael Reynolds
Garbage warrior-Michael Reynolds

Off-the-grid living, typically in alternative communities means living independently of council amenities such as water, electricity and providing your own power. It’s about being more self-reliant, being less dependent on the system, and providing a less toxic food supply. Anyone is able to go off-the-grid using such things as solar panels, wind turbines and techniques in rainwater harvesting. Many third world countries encourage people to help each other go off-grid in their local regions. Making accessible the latest research in various alternate energy production. These techniques need not be expensive, difficult to manufacture or maintain. Nature is the best guide it operates simply and it wastes nothing.

Typical Earth-ship Bathroom
Typical Earth-ship Bathroom

Some 750,000 households in America have gone off-the-grid, and this trend is growing at 10-15% a year, this is not confined to one country however, various communities around the World have successfully become independent. Despite, interestingly enough, Power groups like the Bilderbergers and Trilateral Commission who vie to keep the old inefficient energy systems in place to protect their investments, but the numerous off-the-grid movements sprouting up all over the planet serve as an alternative to this kind of centralized power and control.

The term off-grid refers to not being connected to a grid, mainly used in terms of not being connected to the main or national transmission grid in electricity. In electricity off-grid can be stand-alone systems (SHS) or mini-grids typically to provide a smaller community with electricity. Off-grid electrification is an approach to access electricity used in countries and areas with little access to electricity, due to scattered or distant population. More and more these remote communities are turning to alternate energy means for their supply. This includes the local production of Bio-fuel, Solar power production, Mini-hydro-power and Wind power generation. An off-the-grid home may also incorporate a small animal farm,  vegetable garden, grey water, black water reclamation system and rain water harvesting.

Off-the-grid homes are autonomous; they do not rely on municipal water supply, sewer, natural gas, electrical power grid, or similar utility services. A

Rain Harvesting
Rain Harvesting

true off-grid house is able to operate completely independently of all traditional public utility services. The idea has been popularized and made accessible to the general public through the work and research of pioneers including Jean Pain who developed the technique of generating electricity through compost, Designer and Architect of the Earth-ship Michael Reynolds, Paul Gautschi of the Back to Eden Wood chip gardening method and survival experts Les Stroud and Cody Lundin who promote off-grid living by having constructed their own homes according to those principles and living off the land.

There are many different ways to generate energy, from simple passive solar power systems that utilize the natural path of the sun, to self perpetuating magnetic motors. Electrical power can be generated on-site with renewable energy sources such as solar, wind or geothermal; with a generator and adequate fuel reserves; or simply done without, as in Amish and Old Order Mennonite communities. Such a system is called a stand-alone power system.
On-site water sources can include a well, stream, or lake that can encompass a paddle wheel to generate electricity as well as distribute water for irrigation. Depending on the water source, this may include pumps and/or filtration. Rainwater can also be harvested with rainwater tanks, mesh screens that collect early morning dew, and natural filtration systems such as limestone.

Eco Ark Building in Taiwan is made of Recycled Plastic bottles
Eco Ark Building in Taiwan is made of Recycled Plastic bottles

Survivalism is a movement of individuals or groups called survivalists or Preppers who are actively preparing for emergencies as well as possible disruptions in social or political order, on scales ranging from local to international. Survivalists often have emergency medical and self-defense training, stockpile food and water, prepare for self-sufficiency, and build structures that will help them survive or “disappear” (e.g. a survival retreat or underground shelter). Survivalists, sometimes associated with militia groups generally distrust government authority and ‘gear-up’ in anticipation of both local and global catastrophe, some of these Anticipated disruptions include but are not restricted to the following:

Detail of Polli-Brick System
Detail of Polli-Brick System

Clusters of natural disasters, patterns of apocalyptic planetary crises, or Earth Changes (tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, solar storms, severe thunderstorms). A disaster caused by the activities of humankind (chemical spills, release of radioactive materials, nuclear or conventional war, oppressive governments). The general collapse of society caused by the shortage or unavailability of resources such as electricity, fuel, food, or water. Financial disruption or economic collapse (caused by monetary manipulation, hyperinflation, deflation, or depression). A global pandemic. Widespread chaos or some other unexplained apocalyptic event.

Power Your Car with Woodchips

Typical Gasifier from circa WW2

During WWII when gasoline and diesel were rationed or otherwise unavailable, over one million vehicles in Europe ran on customised gasifiers that used fuel made from burning wood and charcoal?  It was the first affectual widespread alternative fuel conversion in History.

A biomass gasifier is a chemical reactor that converts wood, or other biomass into combustible fuels that can be burned for heating, cooking, or for running an internal combustion engine. This is achieved by partially burning the biomass in the reactor, and using the heat generated to thermally break down the rest of the material into volatile gasses. By passing them over a bed of hot charcoal an efficient reactor will also convert combustion by-products like CO2 and water vapor intoflammable CO and H2.

Gas Powered German Panzer

A typical wood gas generator converts timber or charcoal into wood gas, a synthesised gas consisting of atmospheric nitrogen, carbon monoxide, hydrogen, traces of methane, and other gases, which – after cooling and filtering – can then be used for generating power around the home or power an internal combustion engine. The gasifier converts wood-mass or pulp into flammable gasses with little ash and charcoal residue.

Wood gasification is one of the best solutions to power a home because it can provide both electricity and gas for heating, all from renewable wood.

Commercial Gasifier

Wood and other biomass is made of complex macro-molecules like Cellulose and Lignin that break down into hundreds or thousands of different smaller molecules via the reaction process. There are thousands of different complex chemical reactions going on inside the reactor. The air pipe enters the can tangentially and causes a cyclone effect in the top of the can which mixes the air and wood gas thoroughly. The result is the woodgas burns with a powerful roaring flame like a propane torch

Early Gasifier Powered Motor Cycle

Construction of these wood gasifiers vary according to its usage. Designs begin from simple charcoal & wood burners for heating water, middle of the range units for powering Car & Home, and large industrial units for Residential & Mass Production. One design features a 5 gallon batch fuel hopper that holds enough wood chips for over one hour operating time. A fan provides combustion air through five nozzles to produce a rich gas mixture sufficient for starting and powering a 3 to 12 horsepower engine. The hopper is loaded with wood chips and brought up to optimum temperature before the engine can start. The reactor vessel for this design is fairly easy to construct because it is made mostly from 4-inch pipe fittings that have been screwed together with a few simple welds.

Schematic of WW11 Imbert Gasifier by far the Most Reliable Design

Another design features a 12 volt DC alternator for charging solar batteries. A 2,000 watt inverter for intermittent 120 volt applications like powering drills, lights & other accessories can be added to this unit. For cooking and heating, the gasifier can be run by fan pressure which can produce 200-300 cubic feet of producer grade wood gas per hour. Propane burners can also be customised to run on wood gas, however it is advised that they be tested & tagged by an authorised technician.

A down-draft gasifier design generally produces the best quality gas as compared to petrol burners. Wood gas generators have a number of advantages over use of petroleum fuels:

  • They can be used to run internal-combustion engines using wood, in the absence of petroleum or natural gas during a fuel shortage.
  • They have a closed carbon cycle, contribute less to global warming, wood being both a natural & renewable resource.
  • They can be easily & quickly be knocked together in a crisis using readily available materials.
  • They are far cleaner burning than a wood fire or even a gasoline-powered engine producing little if any soot.
  • When used as a fixed or static unit as in a household, they meet necessary small combined heat and power requirements with heat recovery from the wood gas producer, and the engine/generator to heat water for hydronic heating, provided that a sufficient supply of wood is available.
  • Larger-scale installations can reap even better efficiencies, and are useful for district heating.
Residential Biomass Gasifier-Portugal

Except in the use of a gas holder water-displacement apparatus, long-term storage of wood-gas, is not a viable option, due to the volatile elements present in the gas, which, if allowed to build up could explode. Under no circumstances should wood-gas ever be compressed to more than 15 pounds per square inch (1.0 bar) above ambient, as this may induce condensation of volatiles, as well as lead to the likelihood of severe injury or death due to carbon monoxide or combustion if the vessel leaks or fails.