Monday, 21 April 2008

Alternative energy and self sufficiency

I have always been interested in being self sufficient or as much as possible in regards to food and energy. The monetary costs of being self sufficient in regards to energy have been way past our budget. Some of the ways we have however contributed to saving energy and food costs have been
a) Having a veggie garden and some fruit trees.
b) Installing a 4000 litre water tank.
c) Installing a slow combustion wood fire and which we sometimes cook on and boil water in winter.
d) Insulated the roof and walls when the house was built.
e) Connected to gas for hot water and the stove - the oven is electric though.

What I would like to do eventually when it comes to replacing the wood heater is to replace it with a wood stove...from this we can actually do away with the gas / electric stove during winter. We can also connect it to the water heater and use it to heat water.
Before you through up your arms in shock and horror. Good seasoned fire wood is actually better for the environment than what it is to burn coal and it is still going to contribute to the Co2 problem if it rots on the ground and so though the fire will still release Co2, it will only be the same amount as it would have naturally done any way. And we will be in front because we won't be contributing to the problems with coal and gas.

Our back yard is 17 * 20 meters and so we don't have a great deal of room to grow food. I have recently become excited about Aquaculture where you can fatten your own fish and grow plants at the same time in grow beds. See here and here. These beds will grow as much greens as I currently grow and possibly more in a much smaller space. The result would mean that we would be able to plant more fruit and nut trees as well as more staples such as pumpkins and potatoes and use less water. Aquaculture means less water is used as the water is continually recycled through the grow beds cleaning it of all toxins - Ammonia and nitrates which are good for plants. 10% of the fishtanks water needs replacing on a weekly basis. This means for a 2000 litre tank, 200 litres are used to water the garden ( in the aquaculture grow beds) each week.

We have been growing worms and composting for many years now and shortly will be getting some chickens. We have not been able to over the last few years due to our sons working on local poultry farms and the requirement was they weren't to have chickens. This will mean we can eat better eggs and if need be even our own chicken meat.

I would also like to go solar powered. We have around 200 sq2 meters of roof and use about 15kw of power a day. The problem is that the cost of solar panels are extremely expensive. Yet there could be a method to do away with solar panels or at least a few of them.

I came across a interesting alternative energy source called Wally Minto's wheel. The trouble with it is that it doesn't rotate very fast. It does about 1rpm, but the torque is extremely high. So it may be good for pumping water and milling grain but as it is it's not efficient for making electricity.

Last night I had a bit of a brain wave. I thought why not adapt it into a see saw mechanism. I have drawn a rough sketch of it below. This afternoon I also thought of adding another piston along each arm of the see saw so that there would be 4 pistons operating. Perhaps it would be possible to situate more pistons underneath the arms, but I'm not sure how you could do it within the hot water tubs?

It could be adapted to drive a hydraulic motor which would power an alternator to power batteries. Though I'm thinking that perhaps it would be more efficient to use it as a air compressor to power a air motor to turn the alternator / generator to charge the batteries.
last year while I was in hospital I watched a documentary about a French man who converted a small commercial van to run on compressed air. He managed about 200kms on a tank with speeds around 110 kms an hour. His next project was building one with a small petrol motor which would enable further trips which would also power a compressor to fill the air tanks. He also manged to build a small pump which compressed a small amount of air each time the brakes were used.
If he was able to power a small van over a distance of 200 kms, it certainly is possible for a air powered motor to turn a generator to charge batteries, especially as it is constantly compressing the tanks during the day. Which would make a solar powered system a lot more affordable as you would not need any or very few panels.

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