Renewable Energy Basics
Power Trip Energy Corp. specializes in the installation of grid-tied solar electric (pv) systems. We feel that grid tied pv is the least complicated and most appropriate way for the vast majority of people to generate their own energy. However, generating electricity from the sun is only one of many tools available to help you create a sustainable energy strategy. Passive solar design, energy efficiency and conservation are all very powerful tools that you should first consider. Once you have reduced your overall energy demand “footprint,” you are ready to consider an active system to generate your own energy.
Sunlight energy can be harvested in several different ways. The easiest way to make use of this resource is by making sure your home is designed to incorporate passive solar principles. This allows you to provide much of your home’s heat and light without specialized equipment. Necessary ingredients include a sunny, southern orientation, the proper amount of south-facing glass, and thermal mass within your home that can heat up during the day, absorbing excess heat and preventing overheating, and radiating heat at night to prevent your home from cooling too rapidly. It is very inexpensive to incorporate these simple strategies in your new home’s design, so be certain to educate yourself to these simple principles. If you are working with a design professional, be sure they are intimate with these concepts and incorporate them into your new or redesigned home.
The second way to harvest the sun’s energy is to convert the light to electricity using photovoltaic (pv) panels. Traditionally this electricity was used to charge batteries. With the advent of net metering we can now use solar generated electricity instantly sending any excess power to the utility grid. In this way you can be credited for the energy you provide to the utility during the day, against what you use during the night. The ability to use the utility-grid as your battery makes solar photovoltaic power maintenance-free and makes the system much more attractive from a financial standpoint. If you are off-grid, you can decide to use DC-powered appliances, or you can invert the DC power that batteries store into AC power and use standard household appliances. Another alternative is to be grid-tied with a battery back up. With a high quality inverter, you can be grid-connected, sell your excess power to the utility, and maintain a bank of batteries at full charge for use in case of a utility outage.
The wind can be harvested to create electricity that can be connected to the grid with net metering, connected directly to pump water from a well, or can be used in off-grid situations storing DC power in batteries for usage at your need. Generally the larger the wind generator, and the higher it is mounted, the more wind you will be able to harvest. Wind is more suitable for locations with a lot of space.
Micro-hydro generating technology allows you to harvest the energy embodied in water flowing downhill and is very efficient at a residential scale. The fact that this resource provides constant power, day and night, makes it an excellent power source if you have this resource on your property.
The ideal location in terms of harvesting renewable energy would have an unobscured southern exposure to harvest the sun’s light and heat throughout the year, a very windy ridge top nearby for your wind generator, and a brisk creek running by the house for your micro-hydro turbine. A panoramic view of the ocean and walking-distance access to good surf are essential as well!
For further education, we recommend:
- Home Power magazine – your local newsstand or www.homepower.com
- Solar Washington – for local educational events, check www.solarwashington.org