Don’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 Sources
There 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 Sources
For 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
The n-type semiconductor is a mix of silicon and small amounts of phosphorous. Making the silicon semiconductor, negatively charged. As a positively charged semiconductor, the p-type is made of silicon with small amounts of boron.
The n-type semiconductor forms the second layer of the solar cell while the p-type semiconductor forms the third layer.
Beneath the p-type semiconductor, exists the metallic electrode. The electrode works together with the metallic grid to generate an electric current. The metallic network is visible to the naked eye and forms the small grid pattern familiar on all solar panels.
The reflective layer helps to lower the loss of solar energy in the system and together with the metallic electrode; they form the last (fourth) 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 panels
Well, 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 only
For 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 Pros
Converting 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.
The 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 Source
As 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
Wind is the movement of air generated from a location of high pressure to that of low pressure. What a vast majority of people don’t know is that wind exists as a result of the sun heating the Earth surface unevenly. When hot air rises, cold air fills the void thus creating wind.
A modern wind turbine is composed of three large blades connected to a rotor and main shaft. The wind spins the generator therefore finally creating electricity.
Several factors influence the generation of alternative energy by wind turbines.
- Wind flow patterns
- Wind speed
- Water bodies
Types of wind turbines
There are two types of modern wind turbines namely:
1. Horizontal-axis Wind Turbine
As 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.
- 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 Turbine
Unlike 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
Wind turbine sizes
1. Small residential wind turbines
With the capability of generating below 10 kilowatts, the turbine produces enough electricity for a standard home. This type of wind turbine works together with batteries and photovoltaic systems. Also referred to as a hybrid wind system, it can be used in remote and off-grid sites.
2. Small business wind turbine
This type of wind turbine generates more power than a hybrid wind turbine. As a result, it’s best suited for small businesses and facilities such as ranches, schools, farms, office blocks and hospitals among others. It has better components than those of small residential wind turbines, which improves power generation and efficiency.
The problem is, it requires frequent maintenance more than a small residential wind turbine but less than substantial and medium-sized wind turbines. Has the capability of generating 10 kW to 50 kW.
3. Medium commercial wind turbines
Slightly more significant than a small business wind turbine, this model produces commercial quantities of electricity. As a result, its best suited for campuses and medium-sized enterprises.
Special permits required before installation of this wind turbine. Substantial capital investment is also necessary to ensure the purchase and installation of the turbine. Has the capability of generating 50 kW to 250 kW.
4. Large commercial wind turbines
Best suited for communities and industries, this type of wind turbine is suitable for small wind farms. It needs to installed on tall towers exceeding 200 feet together with obstruction lighting. The obstruction lighting warns aviation pilots of a tall object along their path.
Communities must get involved in such a project as well as the local government. Before the project commences, a feasibility study has been completed. Has the capability of generating 500 kW to 1.5 MW.
5. State of the art wind turbines
Also referred to as utility-scale turbines, they can generate 1.5 to 7.5 MW. Generally installed in large groups, power generated by these turbines is for sale. Not only are these turbines highly efficient but they can generate cost-competitive electricity.
They come with rotors measuring 250 feet in diameter installed on tall towers. As a capital-intensive project, resource assessment, financial and legal due diligence get carried out before installation.
Hydro Electric Power In The Home
Not everyone is lucky enough to live by a flowing river. With recent drought, the number of streams that are flowing has reduced, but it does not mean that homeowners cannot use hydroelectric power. Hydropower in some areas is the most popular of the alternative energy sources.
For thousands of years, water has been used to provide power using waterwheels to offer early sources of energy. The power of the waterwheels sent through a series of cogs and gears to turn a grindstone or operate another piece of equipment today turns the same wheels to produce electricity. With sufficient flow, hydropower is exceptionally efficient explaining its popularity. The same power generation can be used to provide power for the home.
Farmers and villages throughout Africa with some success have used micro-Hydro power. Hydropower is very efficient alternative energy sources and can play a role in specific areas. For properties to generate power and live off the grid. Recent drought conditions place restraints on this form of energy production, but this should not hinder the development and installation of these power generating solutions.
Getting off the grid bit by bit rather than taking a giant leap is for many homeowners the route to take. There is some smaller energy generating or saving solutions that reduce the need to use power from the grid. Looking at small ways to make or save power is just as valuable and useful as going entirely off the grid. One such area to look at water heating in the home. A geyser or hot water cylinder in the home is generally the highest electricity-consuming appliance in the home, and there are two ways to overcome this.
Solar Powered Water Heater
Producing hot water uses a lot of energy, boil an electric kettle and watch your electricity meter light up or spin round. While the amount of energy required to heat water is difficult to reduce choosing where the power comes from is a great deal easier.
Solar powered geysers in South African homes are very popular. Affordable and easy to install solar-powered Geysers, are a logical step toward leaving the grid behind. Many solar Geysers are eligible for rebates or government subsidy, and the return on investment is remarkable. Adequate insulation on the solar geyser further improves efficiency, and insulating hot water pipes keep as well as the Geyser keeps the water warmer for longer.
Professionally installed solar geysers save up to 40% on energy bills. This considerable saving put toward energy creation will eventually lead to living off the grid. Making energy savings to pay for energy creation is something all households should consider.
Fire Places And Wood Burning Stoves
Burning fossil fuels such as coal and gas is the most common method of producing electricity in the world. The non-eco-friendly production method is one of the drivers behind living off the grid. It would be difficult to recreate the same power producing heat that power stations rely on from a wood burning stove but wood burning stoves can reduce demand on the grid.
Wood burning stoves and fireplaces have long been used to heat homes and heat the water used in homes. Electricity made water heating and heating convenient, and stoves and fireplaces died out. Smoke pollution was also a problem as well as old fireplaces were inefficient. Modern wood-burning stoves and fireplaces are efficient, burn less wood, produce more fuel and release less smoke that is less toxic.
Efficient wood burners can heat water and heat a home efficiently. Installing and using a wood burner as a way of heating water and warming the home. Takes away the need to use electricity and is, therefore, a step closer to living off the grid.
Another high-energy consumption area of the home is cooking. There are some ingenious “appliances” that anyone living off the grid will appreciate and find beneficial. Simple and extremely effective cooking solutions that apply the basic principles of physics are available and have been for centuries.
Cooking With Almost Zero Energy Solar Oven
The fifth and final way to create energy and live off the grid. More an energy saver than an energy producer. A solar oven does generate power but in a confined space. And it is easy, and affordable to make and install. Solar ovens are available from many camping and outdoor stores, but they are also very easy to make.
A solar oven made in a cardboard box is easy to build and saves a tremendous amount of energy. Using the same power as solar panels and a solar geyser a solar oven is a quirky must have for any home wanting to create energy and live off the grid. People who use solar ovens believe meals cooked in a solar oven taste better than a conventional oven. It may well be true if only because no electricity is wasted.
A Few More Alternative Energy Sources
Listed below are a few more ingenious ways that people and homeowners have found to reduce their energy needs. Or in fact to create an energy supply in areas where there is no energy or energy is nor affordable. In farmlands and in outlying rural African areas where the population is impoverished and have no access to electricity.
The Bicycle Energy Method of Creating Electricity
All over the world, new ideas to create energy are being developed or tested, some with more success than others. Pedal power is used to power TVs or produces electricity in some homes. Static bicycles placed in living rooms encourage households to get fit and generate electricity while watching TV. The idea is simple and has a level of popularity, and it works. Using the kinetic energy from anything can generate electricity. In fact, more homes are finding weird and wonderful ways of doing so.
Farms with cattle have found or are investigating unique ways to generate electricity. Animals produce excessive amount amounts of methane and scientists are looking at techniques to catch and store this gas. The methane can then be burnt to create heat and power stations. It is not science fiction it is real science such as the need to find more renewable energy sources.
The second and most viable solution for cattle farmers and sports event is to use pressure mats with sensors that turn squashing into power. Small amounts of energy from foot traffic from runners, pedestrians as well as cattle can power street lamps or barn lighting. Moving forward flooring in homes could generate electricity just through day-to-day movement.
There is no end to where scientists are heading in the quest to find renewable energy. Some scientists are considering harvesting body heat and using it to create electricity. There is some logic to this, but a practical solution is some years away.
Alternative Energy Sources Are Top Of All Energy Saving Lists
No matter how sensible, mainstream, crazy or not the methods of generating energy to live off the grid is the goal. Any move toward creating energy to move off the grid needs careful planning. Solar and wind power can be installed DIY but professional installation will generate better results. One needs to begin looking at the bigger picture and finding ways to provide energy back into the grid.
Despite home energy production being highly efficient. Eskom has made it difficult to sell or give energy back to the grid. As a result, energy is wasted and therefore opens up avenues where small neighbourhoods rather than just a single home can live off the grid. When considered holistically, home energy production combined with good insulation can bring savings and benefits to many. In fact, also other homes off the grid placing less pressure on Eskom as the whole is possible.
Renewable energy sources are the only way forward. Solar and the wind will come down in price. And it is up to us all to work toward saving energy even if we cannot move entirely off the grid.
The benefit of Roof Insulation With Alternative Energy Sources
There are some very useful roof insulation products on the market. The SANS legislation governs the thickness of the insulation utilizing the recommended R-value. In fact, all new homes in South Africa must be SANS compliant with regards the roof insulation.
The 145mm Isotherm Insulation is SANS compliant with the r-value 3.70 when installed. When selecting the type of insulation you need always read the Isotherm Insulation Specification to be sure of the legislation.
The 135mm Aerolite insulation is also SANS compliant when installed. In fact to get the best benefit from you insulation use the services of Aerolite Installers. The 135mm Aerolite has the installed R-value 3.70. As above be aware of your requirements and read the Aerolite insulation Specifications to make an informed decision. R-value is an essential factor for insulation.
For the best roof insulation prices, the use of professional roof insulation companies will be more beneficial. Not only do the professionals install the roof insulation correctly but they are usually very well trained. In fact, insulation is a perfect add-on with alternative energy sources to be more efficient.