ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCESDon’t we all wish we could create energy and live off the grid? Living off the grid is possible and is no longer something that only hippies, vegans, and environmental activists can do. Becoming self-sufficient regarding energy is more comfortable than many would imagine. Let's investigate Alternative Energy Sources and the advantages of Alternative energy. With investment and some creative thinking, living off the grid is not difficult. By creating Alternative Energy Sources, you save money, do your bit for the environment and add value to your property. There are a few ways to develop alternative energy sources and live off the grid.
Some Alternative Energy SourcesThere are three Alternative Energy sources for renewable energy, the wind, the sunshine, and flowing water. Each of these combined with a bit of creative thinking and some basic science provides a multitude of energy creating and energy-saving ideas. Combining the designs makes it more than possible to live entirely off the grid or become less reliant on it. Here are five ways to create Alternative energy sources and live off the grid anyone can use.
Solar Power Alternative Energy SourcesFor South Africans, Solar Panels is the most obvious method of creating energy. Solar panels of all sizes are more efficient today than ever before, used to power a simple camping lantern or an entire house solar panels have evolved. With plenty of sunshine that produces light and heat, solar energy is popular electricity and Eskom, and the government subsidizes many installations. Using solar to produce electricity to power a home will require research and planning. Solar electricity generation is more than just placing a solar panel or many solar panels on the roof and plugging appliances into the power created. Solar electricity requires a professionally installed sophisticated arrangement of panels, batteries, and inverters. Using the right solar panels is essential and positioning them correctly to ensure optimal sun exposure is equally important. With the objective to capture as much sunlight as possible and turn it into power, getting professional advice will enable you to create your energy and live off the grid easier. The location of a property affects solar power production considerably; shade from trees or in Cape Town Table Mountain can adversely influence power generation. There are many Solar Energy Advantages however the most important is the benefit to our environment. Global warming and climate change have been hugely affected by the types of energy that we have been using over the years.
How Does Solar Power Work?To understand how solar energy works; there are a few necessary things that you need to be aware. For starters, what are the components needed to ensure that solar energy turns into direct current? How can homeowners convert direct current into alternating current for use at home? How can homeowners contribute excess solar energy to the national power grid? Are there benefits of doing so?
Let’s begin with the basic unit of a solar panel.What is a solar cell? As the essential component of a solar panel, the solar cell is responsible for converting the rays of the sun into direct current. It works by converting photons into electricity through a process called photovoltaic effect. You may be wondering how a solar cell can achieve such a feat. A single solar cell contains around four layers. The top layer is composed of glass with anti-reflective coating and a thin grid of metallic strips. Together with the anti-reflective Glass, both form the upper layer of a solar cell. This glass protects the materials beneath it which include:
- N-type semiconductor
- P-type semiconductor
- Metallic electrode
- Reflective layer
What is a solar module?A single solar cell is not able to generate enough electricity to power a home. To make it efficient, the connection of several solar cells is a must. Connected solar cells form a single solar module. What you ought to know is that the number of solar cells on a single solar module varies. As a single solar module, it has the capability of generating more electricity than a single solar cell but not yet efficient enough. To ensure efficiency, the connection of two or more solar modules is a must.
What is a solar panel?Refers to a device with no moving parts that have the capability of generating direct current. Also known as photovoltaic panels or PV panels, composed of several solar cells connected to form a few solar modules. A single solar panel has the capability of producing a certain amount of electricity measured in watts. A complete PV system is composed of several solar panels; the number may vary depending on the power needs and amount of investment the homeowner is willing to make. The more solar panels a system has, the more power they can produce.
Production of Solar Energy – How it happens?As you already know, the sun bathes the Earth with infinite amounts of energy. As the suns rays reach Earth, the quantity absorbed by water vapour and dust amounts to 23% - 48%, and this is what solar panels count on for the production of electricity. The good news is that there is ample energy that can reach the Earth surface. The rays of the sun contain energy, and that is why when sunlight comes into contact with your body, you always feel its warmth. There are specific materials if hit by the rays of the Sun; they convert the energy into direct current. One such material is silicon. In its pure form, it cannot be able to generate direct current from the rays of the sun, but with other elements such as boron and phosphorous, the impure form can generate electricity. As said earlier, a single solar cell is composed of the n-type semiconductor (made from silicon and small amounts of phosphorous) and the p-type semiconductor (made from silicon and small amounts of boron). The n-type semiconductor contains excess electrons located on the outer ring of the atoms. When photons come into contact with the n-type semiconductor, the Electrons, are excited and become loose. As a result, they begin to search for something for bonding. The p-type semiconductor has “holes” within its atoms. Therefore it means that it requires more electrons to become stable. The loose electrons will now flow to fill the “holes” via the thin metallic grid located at the top and rear of each solar cell. As a result of the movement of electrons, generation of electricity will be possible. The current flow to an external circuit which will capture the electric current. Once a complete connection exists, the electrons will continue to flow as long as the rays of the sun continue to shine on the solar panels. As a result proving to be an effective solution in the drive for alternative energy solutions.
Type of electricity generated by a solar panelsWell, the correct answer is direct current. As a result of the electrons flowing in one direction around the circuit. The electron particles are moving from the negative side to the positive side and then captured by an electric circuit. This type of current is not suitable for powering your electronic gadgets and lighting purposes. For that, you need alternating current.
Is it possible to convert direct current to alternating current in a solar energy system?Well, it is. For this to be possible, you need a micro inverter. The micro inverter takes the direct current (DC electricity) and converts it into alternating current (AC) which powers your electronic gadgets.
What are the other functions of a micro-inverter?For starters, it provides ground fault protection. As a result, your PV systems, as well as your electronic gadgets, remain protected. Secondly, it offers vital system stats for instance data on voltage and current for both DC and AC as well as energy production. Therefore this useful information can help to optimize, the PV system as well as locate any bottlenecks existing within the system.
Are PV Solar Systems Affected During Cloudy Days?Let’s face it. There will always be significant cloud cover whether it rains or snows. These clouds lower the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth as well as your PV system. If cloud cover prolongs over an extended period, it will significantly affect the generation of electricity by your PV system. As you can see, your solar panel will continue to work even on a cloudy day thanks to the diffuse light, light that is not directly shined onto the solar panels from the Sun. It’s light reflected from clouds and shiny surfaces such as glass buildings. The only problem is that your PV system will experience a drop in the generation of power. Weather should be the least of your concern. What you ought to know is that your PV system will continue generating clean, renewable energy for many years to come. As a result, you will get to save money because you will lower your dependency on electricity from the national grid. Also, you will play a part in the reduction of greenhouse gas emission.
Did you know you could share excess alternative energy produced by your PV system to the national grid?As a result, homeowners are encouraged to share excess electricity generated by their PV systems with the national grid. When homeowners join this system, the power company will bill them for the total amount of energy used during the month. The difference between the amount of solar energy produced and the amount of energy consumed during the month. However, this is not possible in South Africa at this time. If you opt to join net metering, your electric meter will run backwards, when you share excess solar energy to the grid. Also, you will benefit from credits which will ensure that you get to use power during night time or cloudy days. Not in South Africa.
Net metering benefits the USA onlyFor starters, it can save homeowners on their monthly energy bill. How? As said earlier, when you share excess solar energy to the grid, your meter will run backwards, as a way of rewarding you for sharing your power. During cloudy days or night time, you can use electricity from the power grid. The amount used comes from your contribution Another benefit of net metering is reduced strain on the power grid. Also, minimizing energy loss. As a result, transmission of power to the generating station located miles away for distribution is not a must. The power is distributed to home, businesses, and industries within the vicinity of your home. There you have it. An informative guide to solar energy production. As you have read, there is no downside to installing PV systems for your home or business. Only the upside and there are many. For starters, you will get to save money, especially on your monthly energy bills. Also, you can share excess solar energy produced by your PV system to the power grid. As a result, you will get to earn credits which will go towards your savings. That is not all. As a user of alternative energy, your efforts will go along way towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and use of fossil fuels.
Converting To Solar Power Use The ProsConverting and storing the power in batteries is the other area that needs consideration. Many poorly installed solar solutions lose electricity because of poor quality or insufficient battery storage. Using a professional solar installation provider ensures leakage is low. And you get the best out of alternative energy sources. Solar power is expensive to implement, and Finweek estimated a solar solution, excluding a geyser, would cost around R250,000 to install. Therefore the cost of the Solar System can be recovered over a period of between 24 and 36 months on a large home. The long-term savings are substantial and when installed as part of a well-planned project make a living off the grid entirely possible. Solar is the most obvious solution to producing power, but the wind is also viable in many parts of South Africa. Yachtsmen, Caravaners, and farmers have all been aware of wind power as a form of energy for decades. Powering small appliances or remote buildings with limited energy needs using a simple windmill is a proven solution. Wind power is an essential contributor to electricity generation around the world; not only in North America and Europe but also in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The amount of wind power produced globally in a year is 65,000,000,000 kWh which can power more than 6 million US homes.
Wind PowerThe Wind is as easy to farm as sunshine and wind farms have exploded on the landscape around the world. Wind power is one of the leading alternative energy sources. In fact, Windmills that turn and face the wind are now familiar sites and wholly acceptable forms of energy creation. The same principles that apply to solar panels, using the wind rather than the sunshine, when installing a wind turbine to provide power for the home. A professionally installed system of the same batteries and Inverters allows electricity to be stored and used. Wind power requires more planning than solar. In fact, the wind is as reliable as the sunshine, but gusting can cause problems. Some Wind turbines are noisy, can be unsightly and may require planning permission to erect. To produce enough electricity to power a home large wind turbines or larger farms of turbines are required. Using smaller wind turbines to individual power appliances or in conjunction with solar power is a favourite, way of using wind power. As part of a balanced and well-planned energy project aimed at creating energy to live off the grid wind power is valuable. As with the solar panels, wind turbines can be expensive. Smaller wind turbines such as those used on yachts and caravans are relatively affordable and can be useful in spreading the load. Wind turbines have become one of the favourite alternative energy sources. Wind and the sun are available to everyone on a lesser or greater scale depending on the need. Energy companies all over the world are embracing both solar and the wind as viable energy providers, but there is another renewable resource open to some home users.
Wind Turbine Alternative Energy SourceAs a renewable source of energy, wind power has helped to eliminate emissions in the amount of 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide, 3.2 tons of nitrogen oxide, 60 pounds of mercury and 6.5 tons of sulfur dioxide. Since 2016, wind power generation has grown by more than 15% annually finally surpassing 4 % of the total world electricity generation.
The question is: What is wind power?As alternative energy, wind power is electricity generated from wind turbines. The wind turns the turbines which convert kinetic energy into mechanical strength. Homes, industries and businesses benefit from this electricity.
How wind power produced?To understand the process of generating wind power, you need to learn more about the components involved. They include:
- Wind turbine
Several factors influence the generation of alternative energy by wind turbines.They include:
- Wind flow patterns
- Wind speed
- Water bodies
Types of wind turbinesThere are two types of modern wind turbines namely:
1. Horizontal-axis Wind TurbineAs the most common type of wind turbine, all the components are located at the top of the tall tower. They include blades, main shaft and generator among others. The blades face the wind while the shaft remains horizontal to the ground. When wind hits the Blades, the main shaft starts to rotate. The main shaft connects to a gear which in turn relates to the generator. As the main shaft rotates, it rotates the gear which turns the generator leading to the generation of electricity. The wind turbine connects to the power grid, and that is how electricity, is distributed. There are other components installed in the wind turbine that help to improve efficiency. They include:
- Wind vane
Advantages of Horizontal Axis Turbines
- The tall tower allows blades to be hit by strong winds
- Tall towers can be installed on most terrains – onshore and offshore
- Can be installed in a forest
- Blades position helps to improve stability
Disadvantages of Horizontal Axis Turbines
- Difficult to transport
- Difficult to install
- May affect radar
- A little difficult to maintain
2. Vertical Axis Wind TurbineUnlike the horizontal axis, the turbine’s shaft is vertical to the ground which means all its main components are close to the ground. There are two types of vertical axis wind turbines namely:
- Lift based
Advantages of Vertical Axis wind turbines
- Lower transportation costs
- Lower installation costs
- Effective on hilltops and ridgelines
- Lower maintenance costs
Disadvantages of Vertical Axis Wind Turbines
- Needs Power to start
- Has a higher chance of falling out
- Not suitable for areas with strong winds