Nice place but pricey A multimillion-dollar house on the back of Aspen Mountain went on the market this summer. Is there such a thing as an Eco McMansion?
The 3,600 square feet house on the New York Lode patented mining claim is completely off the grid, with a geothermal system providing hot water for heating and domestic use, and a five-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system providing the electricity. (more…)
You’ve seen the advertisements, “Build your own solar panels”, you’ve seen the kits, now you wonder, just how hard is it to do? Well, that depends, mostly on your skills and patience. It would seem that the solar cells that are sold for this purpose is very delicate, they break very easily. I always see on eBay, lots of listings for broken solar cells, they still work, but they obviously do not put out as much juice as it did when it was unbroken. It is possible to piece together broken cells and get a perfectly good working solar panel, again, it takes skills and patience. (more…)
Rocket stoves, have you heard about them? If you have then I’m preaching to the choir, if you haven’t, then it’s high time you learned about how great these little (and sometimes big) stoves can be.
Basically a rocket stove is a very efficient heater that can be used to cook/heat food, heat water, heat spaces… It typically uses much less fuel (wood) to create heat, and it’s often made from recycled materials. (more…)
EducatorsA building and educational project in Saskatchewan is bringing together Grade 10 students, community leaders and environmental building experts to create a unique off-grid-ready home. Grade 10 students at Charlebois Community School in Cumberland House, the oldest permanent settlement in western Canada, teamed with professional engineers, alternative energy and building specialists, and local trades to build an environment-friendly house.
Dubbed the Pisim Project (Pisim is Cree for sun), the house is based on the same footprint as homes of a century ago, while using local materials and modern technology to produce an efficient, low-cost home capable of existing off-grid for up to five days. (more…)
Getting off the grid or even using personal alternative/renewable energy while still attached to the grid is an expensive proposition. That is especially true when putting in a complete system at once. Here at The Off Grid Home we wanted to make a database of all the programs available across the United States but, found that it was more of a long term goal. So we have taken down the page we have completed until we can have more complete and up to date information.
Though we still feel that everyone who is interested in using alternative/renewable energy should have a starting point for their own research. So as we were working on our own state by state narratives we ran across a complete database run by North Carolina Solar Center and the IREC. We haven’t been able to check to see how up to date the database is but it is a great start for individuals or even companies wishing to delve into using these power sources and getting financial help. The database is called DSIRE, Database of State Incentives for Renewable & Efficiency,and is stated to last be updated on April 7, 2008. We will be adding links from our site to theirs in hope that those who are just waiting to make the big financial commitment can now have the help they need. Plus, incentives and grants have limited time windows for them to be available. As ours may not be finished till after some are no longer available or near the end of the time frame making it hard if not impossible for you to get the help needed.
The North Carolina Solar Center was created in 1998 and promotes the use of renewable energy technologies and green building practices. They do this through the four main programs of technical training and assistance, policy research and analysis, outreach and education programs, and technology research, development and demonstrations. They seek to stabilize energy cost for the consumer, stimulate local economies, reduce dependence on foreign fuels, and mitigate impact on the environment by energy use. It is operated by the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University.
The Interstate Renewable Energy Council, IREC, has a mission to accelerate the use of renewable energy sources along with their needed technologies through both state and local government and community activities. It was formed in 1980 and supports market-oriented service that are targets at education, coordination, procurement, and both adoption and implementation of standards, guidelines and consumer protection. Members of IREC include state and local agencies, national labs, solar and renewable organization, companies as well as individuals.
A big worry today is what to do with all the waste that is disposed of in our everyday lives. Where is all the wrappers, napkins, uneaten food, worn clothing, broken furniture, etc that needs to be disposed of going? and how do we make trash a positive effect for our environment. Recycling and reuse are great options but what about the pizza box that can’t be recycled or the torn pants that can’t be repaired, they should be able to make a difference too.
So while prowling the forum over at TreeHugger a discussion of if it was an energy source was found. Which reminded us of two options for small or large scale renewable power can come from garbage. Methane harvesting and incineration of that which can’t get a second life as usable product.
Methane harvesting is a viable option especially in todays calling for alternative fuel options. Methane can be harvested and sold as is or could be piped to an electric plant to produce electricity, which then can be sold. Back in 2000 NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center awarded a contract to the Toro Energy to use landfill gas. According to the release at the time of the contract:
Goddard plans to purchase no less than $900,000 of landfill gas annually. The unit gas cost includes the costs of building facilities to accommodate the delivery of gas. The Center also intends to expand use of the gas to alternate-fueled vehicles, and possibly to become a centralized government fueling station. Other possible applications for using the landfill gas may be powering chillers in the power plant, or even electrical generation.
So the idea to do this has already been implemented in large scale projects and seven years in to this contract there has not been a large outcry (nor that we’ve heard small) about this not being a working option. No outcrying of harmful side effects from employees of the base, landfill or residents living between the two of health concerns. Considering the skepticism and some downright disapproval in the public at the time it was implemented that is almost a miracle in itself.
Burning trash is another option that is possible. In Baltimore City there is a plant, one of only 16 in the country, that has been doing it since 1984. Considering that at that time most plants of this type were still the dirty, polluting ones in our nightmares, it’s amazing that it is actually a source of pride to our city (at least the ones who realize it’s there and what it does). There is no haze that hangs around or odors that can be smelled miles away. The plant. Wheelabrator Baltimore Inc., has actually worked to help clean up the area and become a symbol of the ideal waste burning plant.
Their first step is to remove metal that can be recycled and has removed over 150 million pounds of metal and recycled it into the scrap metal market since 1984. After that it continues to process the waste until it becomes ash. This ash is then sold to landfills to cover or go between layers of trash. Surrounding the burning trash are power boilers which are designed to recover and “recycle” the thermal energy released by the garbage during burning. Which is done by using high pressure steam to recover the energy. This steam can then be used to produce 60,000 kilowatts of electrical energy with its turbine generator to convert the steam into electrical energy. On top of that it can supply up to 300,000 pounds per hour of direct steam heating or summer cooling (using chillers) for downtown Baltimore.
So this plant is paid to take the trash, paid for the electricity and steam it produces, paid for the metal it returns to the market, and paid for the ash of burned garbage to be used in landfills, and then only has to dispose of 10% of the mass that it started with. The only down side of this is that the filters used to keep pollutants from being introduced into the air are expensive and need frequent changes. Though it still makes enough to keep going…okay, more then enough.
The only problem is that no one wants one of these in their backyards. This plant was built in an industrial area that was not in the best part of town. It has actually improved the area by cleaning it up and building the largest Trash Can, according to the Guinness Book Of World Records. Our two new stadiums are even built just around the corner from it.
Though a couple years ago when a second plant was proposed on the outskirts of Baltimore the neighborhoods didn’t want anything to do with it and successfully stopped it from happening. In defense of the neighborhoods it had had a plant there before that was not properly maintained or filtered which cause enough health hazards for the EPA to shut it down. So even if this plant is a testament to how it could and should be done getting passed the stigma associated with this type of energy production ranks right up there with nuclear.
Are you handy or even willing to try to be then how about visiting Instructables Alternative Energy DIY? Following our renowned and highly technical search of the internet we found this great site. Yup, that’s right we just stumbled on it while researching something totally different. So we just had to join and tell you about it.
We will have to try some of these projects and let you know what we think. If they work we will certainly let you know. If you try one first let us know how it went. It’s science fair time for our children so we are already tied up on the new project front for a little while. Of course we encouraged them, though it wasn’t hard, to do something with renewable energy. Nice to see it is now an accepted project now. A few years ago when our son was doing his first it wasn’t on the list. The younger they are exposed to the possibility that having wires run to your home is not necessary the better.
I do have to say that when problem arise, like they always do, our children have been very encouraging to complete our goal of getting completely off the grid. Still being in a suburban (almost urban) environment has added challenges and the economy right now really isn’t helping but we are determined. Making the small changes we have and now moving to more major ones has been an adventure. One that has already produced results. We have lowered our utilities bill to the local gas and electric company by about $200 a month just in the past year. That means in last three years we have cut in half our winter bill form over $800 to between $250 to $375. It seems amazing that just changing how we used energy, adding additional insulation, changing to energy star appliances and light bulbs could make such a significant change. Take into account that we had a significant increase in our energy costs in Maryland in the last two years and its even more amazing. So our hope is that by the end of this summer we will have panels installed to supplement if not totally power our home. We just need to remove three more trees so that the panels on our roof won’t be covered. Then up we go to install them.
Hey and with some of the project we found at Instructables we should be able to try them out. The one for solar thermal water heater for less then $5 has definitely caught our attention.
Using wind turbines to generate your energy needs is like making energy appear from thin, moving, air. Especially if you are building a new home in a remote location. Wind energy systems may involve a significant initial investment but once you account for the lifetime of reduced or no utility costs it’s a steal. Though the time it takes for you to start making free energy, when your system has paid for itself through your savings that resulted, will be dependent on your system choice, wind resource at your location, electric rates, and how you have your system setup.
Small wind systems can work both on and off the grid depending on your needs, resources, and your desire. An on grid wind turbine system can help reduce your use of public utility-supplied electricity. This way your public electric utility can supply any energy need your turbine cannot supply. On the flip side when your wind turbine produces more energy then your need it can be sold to your utility (depending on state/local regulations). With the interconnections available today the switch can happen automatically. Conditions for a grid connected system are:
Living in an area with average annual wind speeds of at least 4.5 meters per second (10 miles per hour).
Grid supplied electricity is expensive in your area (about 10 to 15 cents per kilowatt-hour).
Local/State requirements for connecting your system to the grid are not too expensive.
You can legally erect a wind turbine on your property, check local building codes.
The long-term investment is possible for you.
Stand alone wind systems are designed for homes, farms and/or communities that are located away from utility lines and located in practical conditions. Conditions to look for are:
Living in an area with average annual wind speeds of at least 4.0 meters per second (9 miles per hour)
Grid connections are not available or can only be done by expensive extension. Running a power line to a remote site from the utility grid can be prohibitive, it can range from $15,000 to more than $50,000 per mile, depending on your terrain.
A decided interest in gaining energy independence from the utility
A desire to reduce the environmental impact of electricity production
Understanding the intermittent nature of wind power and have a plan for using other resources to meet your power needs during down times.
6% of the contiguous U.S. land area has the potential to supply more than 1 1/2 times the current demand for electricity in the United States. The estimated wind resource is categorized into power classes of 1 to 7. Each class represents a range of wind power density at at a specific height above the ground. Class 1 is unsuitable for current and future wind technology. Class 2 is only marginally acceptable. Class 3 may be usable, above marginal, with future technology. Class 4 and above are able to use advance wind turbine already being developed today.
Advantages to using this type of alternative energy is that is is a clean, renewable fuel source. It doesn’t pollute the air like fossil fuels, nor does it produce greenhouse gases which cause acid rain.
Since the US has an abundant supply of wind it cannot be used up. For those who love solar energy this is another way to tap that energy. As wind energy is actually caused by the heating of our atmosphere by the sun along with the rotation of the earth and surface irregularities of the earth.
Wind is also the lowest-priced of the renewable energy technologies that are available today. It only cost between 4 and 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, that of course depends on the particulars of your project. Good luck and who says you can’t get money from thin air! Picture is courtesy of US Dept of Energy
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