Saturday, May 31, 2008

Second Anniversary Message

I began my first anniversary message with a rejection of the notion that “America is Addicted to Oil”. Today I’m proud to be among a growing number of people who are actually doing something about it. We have different strategies, and different kinds of projects underway, but similar goals. We’re fortunate to live in a time when it is easy to share information, and to learn from each other. At the rate gasoline prices have been rising, we all need to avoid mistakes and to work as efficiently as possible.

In addition to individual efforts, it’s good to see corporate projects. We’re closer to having practical electric vehicles than we were on this date last year. The GM Volt seems to be progressing on schedule, and the Norwegian Th!nk City car should arrive in the United States sometime next year. Both will have Lithium Ion batteries, and that technology seems to be progressing nicely. Because of the rapid progress, I’m no longer sure if my first electric car will be a plug-in-hybrid-electric, or an electric-only vehicle. As long as I have enough range to meet my daily driving requirements, an electric-only car will meet my needs. I’ll continue to enlarge my PV system so that at least a portion of my driving will be via free energy from the sun.

Another winter has passed, and my corn-burning stove once again supplemented my home heating system. I’m happy to have replaced fossil-fuel heating with corn, but I didn’t really save money this year due to the high cost of corn. I hope someday to own enough land to not only grow my own food, but also to grow corn to be used for home heating. I’ve been told that I can meet all of my home heating needs with just one acre of corn. I know that this will be an ambitious project, so I may hold off until I’m ready to retire from my day job.

In addition to my solar electric and bio-fuel projects, I’m now experimenting with solar water heating. Besides cutting my use of fossil fuels, this project has the potential for cutting my natural gas bill. Check back later for a progress report.

As we go forward we follow different paths, but diverse strategies are good. There will be no single solution to the problems we’ll face as oil declines. Short-term solutions, like hoarding gasoline, will be of little value. Let’s continue to share information as we face the challenges of the future, including our successes and failures, for the benefit of all. As we make the transition to alternative sources of energy, let's enjoy the journey. I appreciate blog comments, and hope to see more of them as I enter the third year of this blog.



Damon said...

Well done on two whole years: about one year longer than I have had the energy-conservation bug!

BTW, we managed May with a net import of only 11kWh of electricity (though only a little less than that *each day* in natural gas for hot water, so that's my current project to go solar).

And today my little off-grid PV system is being expanded to a whole 120Wp! (So <10% of my grid-tie array...)



Damon said...

BTW SJ, how big is your PV array now?



Solar John said...

I have 425 watts of PV at the present time. I've recently replaced my battery bank, and plan to get 1 or 2 more solar panels before the end of the year.

Do you have expansion plans? I'm curious to know which of your PV systems you would prefer to enlarge, and why.


Damon said...

Hi SJ,

Yes, I would like to expand both systems in principle.

But expanding the off-grid system will be more difficult because I have a severe shortage of suitable space other than on the roof (though what I have on the ground is south-facing unlike my roof), and I'll need to do a major (10x) battery upgrade to ~400Ah SLA (or 200Ah Lithium) to meet my next goal which would be to keep the internet server and DSL modem off-grid all day at least in summer.

But, other than a little shading, my east-facing roof is a good opportunity for efficient generation which I want to grid-tie to be zero-electricity over the course of a year, but I need (a) the most-efficient possible panels such as more Sanyo HIT hybrids or the SunPower-315 back-contact stuff and (b) thus lots more money. In fact, I hope that if I can wait a year or so for those some novel or much-more-efficient PV may become available, such as the avalanche PV at possibly even as much as 40% efficiency. I could get up to 8kWp on my small roof!

However, having loaded up my 40Ah with 120Wp (C/4 charge rate page) I'll be saving my pennies towards solar thermal next, as a better CO2 bang for the buck.

I do hope to recover waste/excess heat from that in summer at a rate of somewhere between 2% and 10% to put back into the grid. I have some Seebeck converters in front of me, and Electratherm's ORC generators have the right characteristics but are 10x too big, so I think it's not total lunacy...