Picture fromGoogle showing just how close my place is to industrial electric production
Excerpt: Electricity is a mainstay in our modern lives. It powers so many different facets, drawing from the stored sunlight of fossil fuels mainly. This illuminates our paths towards over consumption, abundant information, rapid transportation, and industrialization of all sorts. It is like the sun is always out when you have electricity, throw a switch on, plug-in, and voila, power is there. It helps blend our soups and preserve the vegetables that compose it. It powers our telecommunications and lets us diverge from rhythms of nature because of the stored sunlight in fossil fuels. Normally they are burnt to produce steam which turn turbines thus creating electricity. It is an amazing gift, really, but a costly one with emissions and subsequent pollution (i.e. mercury, lead, and arsenic emissions along with CO2 from coal power plants). It has increased our life expectancy and in some ways created a better and safer way of life. However there is the flip side of the coin and the comforts it provides have also catapulted the over consumptive and disconnected society. It is the very definition of a catch 22. It also helps to power the homestead, a critical point of a permaculture landscape. Electricity is everywhere and just as it is stated in the intro article of this chapter, we not only aim to produce electricity with renewables, we also aim to reduce our needs of electricity through a myriad of appropriate technologies. Electricty demand will only increase as well since technology that was once liquid fossil fuel driven switches to electric, i.e. cars, chainsaws, weed eaters, etc.
Thus there are three main elements that Permaculturits utilize for the production of electricity to support us in lessening our grid demand. They are the following:
Again before producing electricity one needs to examine what it takes to reduce consumption. You maybe cooking, heating water, storing food, augmenting building temperature, etc with electric which are very demanding energy wise. They may need to be converted to a different energetic source generation (i.e. earth tube fridge) allowing you to reach an overall production state of electricity instead of consumption.
I include a short description of each and then go into the necessary hardware to complete them. I also include my biography of interacting with these technologies. There are others that are coming on and the potato will indeed light up a light bulb according to youtube. But for now we explore these main three.
This system captures the energy of the sun and converts it into electricity, providing a daytime energy source for a permaculture system. If the electricity produced during the day is converted by an inverter and stored in batteries, it can be used in the nighttime or on overcast days. Alternatively, the electricity generated can be used directly, without being stored, to power some machines such as pumps or aerators. The solar PV panels should be sited appropriately to maximize solar gain, considering seasonal differences of the sun angle. Trackers, which are panel stands that follow the sun’s daily movements, aid in achieving maximum sun exposure and make these systems more efficient, but may drive up their cost significantly. To maximize production, the panels have to be kept clean, especially in dry and dusty places. The Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, USA, cleverly located their panels in the parking lot, to provide shade for the cars parked beneath, creating yet another function. This electricity production system can be scaled variably, powering anywhere from a single household to a bigger community. Although it is usually an off-grid power source, some locales allow for grid tie-ins.
Willie Smits: Village Based Permaculture Approaches in Indonesia (video)